Charlie Crist is the front-runner in Florida's U.S. Senate race for now, but nobody should underestimate how difficult it will be to pull off an unprecedented statewide victory as a nonpartisan candidate.
He needs a big chunk of the Democratic vote and 20 percent of the Republican vote to make the math work, and he'll have both the Democratic and Republican parties spending millions of dollars to make sure that doesn't happen. There is loads of ammunition to raise Democratic doubts about the former lifelong Republican.
Pictures and video of Crist cheering alongside George W. Bush? Check. Alongside Sarah Palin? Check.
Now, the Marco Rubio campaign is cheerfully talking about sending thousands of Democratic households across Florida an automated call from the 2006 gubernatorial primary featuring Crist's own voice touting his conservative bona fides:
"Hi, this is Charlie Crist calling to set the record straight. I'm pro-life. I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants, I support traditional marriage, and I have never supported a new tax or big spending program. … Floridians need a consistent conservative."
Ouch. To say the least, that would confuse a lot of ardent Democrats in South Florida.
Dems see pay dirt in GOP's dirty laundry
While Democrats across the country are fearing midterm elections thanks to the poor approval ratings of Congress and the White House, Florida Democrats continue to argue optimistically that in the Sunshine State November will really be a referendum on the Republican leadership in Tallahassee.
"Over the last six months, it has only gotten worse for the GOP. Republican Party chairman Jim Greer was finally taken away in handcuffs, and his trial date has been set for October. The Greer indictment has exposed a wash of Republican corruption and the secret backroom deals surrounding him have implicated the entire Republican leadership, from Bill McCollum to Dean Cannon to new Republican chairman John Thrasher. Floridians are forced to wonder which Republican politician or party boss will be indicted next while they listen to wiretaps of Republican officials airing their dirty laundry,'' said a strategy memo from state Democratic executive director Scott Arceneaux.
For the first time ever in a nonpresidential election year, the state and national party are planning a full "coordinated campaign," a potentially expensive program to mobilize voters to elect Democrats up and down the ticket.
Democrats put some big bets on Florida
For all the attention on the Senate race, the fact remains that far and away the biggest Florida priority for the White House is winning the governor's mansion — which would provide a crucial leg up in 2012. The bloody GOP primary between Rick Scott and McCollum has Democrat Alex Sink looking especially strong.
So we shouldn't be especially surprised that the Democratic National Committee recently transferred $400,000 to the Florida Democratic Party to help elect Sink and other Florida Democrats. That was on top of $333,000 transferred to the state party earlier in July.
Libertarian on 'Political Connections'
Check out Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Alex Snitker on Political Connections today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Adam Smith can be reached at email@example.com.