The Very Strange Race for Florida’s U.S. Senate Seat

A month ago I blogged about Florida’s 10-way race for a U.S. Senate seat, which features as its three leading candidates Republican Marco Rubio, who has a substantial lead according to the polling, current Governor Charlie Crist, who left the Republican Party earlier in the year when it appeared he could not beat Rubio in the primary (and is now running as “No Party Affiliation”), and Democrat Kendrick Meek, who is polling behind both Rubio and Crist.  A strange race a month ago has turned even stranger.

A rumor has been circulating for few weeks that Meek was asked by Bill Clinton to drop out of the race, to give Crist a chance against Rubio.  I dismissed that rumor, because it makes no sense, but now the rumor is appearing in the press (here, for example).

Meanwhile, because the Democrats have my e-mail address (lucky me), I got a bulk e-mail from Kendrick Meek this morning, which begins, “In the past 12 hours, you’ve probably heard a lot about Charlie Crist’s latest attempt to push me out of this race.  Let me be clear—I’m in this race until 7 p.m CT/8 p.m ET on Election Night.  President Clinton never asked me to drop out. Since the first day after my primary victory, Crist has been dead set on trying to push me out of this race because he only cares about advancing his own political career.”

I get lots of e-mail from the Democrats, some under Bill Clinton’s name, and if the Democrats really wanted to put this rumor to rest, and turn it against Crist (rather than against Meek, as it now leans), Bill Clinton should have sent that e-mail, and affirmed that he still supports Meek.  I haven’t received that e-mail.

At this point, Meek can’t really drop out of the race, because his name is already on the ballot, and because he already has received votes due to Florida’s early voting.  And, Meek emphatically says he’s staying in the race until the election is over.  Meek calls this rumor “Charlie Crist’s latest attempt to push me out of this race,” and it is certainly plausible that the rumor started in Crist’s camp.  Politics is full of dirty tricks.

In less than a week the election will be over and Marco Rubio will be headed to the U.S. Senate.  I don’t see much suspense in this election.

The most fascinating thing about the whole saga is watching Charlie Crist’s political career implode.  Elected to the governor’s office as a Republican, he easily could have stuck with his party and won a second term as governor.  But when the open senate seat appeared, he figured he also could easily win that election.  When Rubio’s campaign gained strength, rather than fight it out (and likely lose in the primary), he left his party, and will lose as a third party candidate.

Even if Crist lost the Republican primary against Rubio, he’d still have substantial support in the party.  Now, that’s gone.  Two years ago, as a popular Republican governor, Crist was at the top of his game.  Now, he has no party, and it appears his political career is over.

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America .
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