Earlier this week, Peter Schorsch had an excellent analysis of Governor Crist’s sagging poll numbers among key demographics. Much of this has been largely under-reported in the mainstream press. While a sense among Democrats continues to prevail that Crist is the favorite to win this fall, the polling trends indicate otherwise.
Here are my biggest concerns from the surveys in recent weeks from the Crist perspective.
- Economic improvement has eventually led to better job approval ratings for Scott and a more positive feeling among Floridians about the direction of the state.
- Crist is getting beaten badly among males and while he is winning currently in the Orlando Metropolitan area an place trending heavily towards the Democrats, he is losing ground there. Crist is not getting the expected bump many had hoped in the Jacksonville and Tampa Bay areas. He runs strong in his home area but not perhaps as strongly as I had anticipated. Also the Democrats inability to compete with white male voters in medium sized counties across the state will be a much bigger problem in an off-year election than in a Presidential Election year.
- Governor Crist is losing the Cuban-American vote badly. Right now according to the most recent polling he is faring worse in that community than President Obama or Alex Sink did.
It is important to remember that polling is a snapshot in time and not an election projection. Rick Scott has been in the news lately — as well as spending millions on attack ads — while Governor Crist has been plugging away more subtly as he continues to build a campaign infrastructure. Still the trend lines are clear.
While we have long advocated a base vote strategy to win elections for Democrats, Charlie Crist’s candidacy is not exactly the playbook model to do this. So the hope had been that he would be able to appeal to moderates, particularly white male and Cuban-American voters. At this point in time at least, it appears Crist is having difficulty doing this.
Another hope I had that was not articulated here at any point was that a Crist candidacy could help Democrats make inroads among white male voters in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, areas of the state in the Tampa Bay media market with lots of retirees who have voted for Crist, a Pinellas County raised former Republican on multiple occasions. In these counties, Crist was able to peel some Republican votes away from Marco Rubio in 2010. In 2010, a few people in these areas voted for Rick Scott AND Charlie Crist on the same day, leading to my hope that Crist would be a consideration this time among those Republican oriented voters.
While I have not seen definitive data from these counties it appears based on the regional grouping of the cross-tabs in multiple polls, these areas have shifted towards Rick Scott.
I continue to hold out hope that Pinellas County where Crist hails from and remains popular can create the type of home county advantage polls are not reflecting currently. This also will be critical for the Democrats in the legislature who have four big State House races and a State Senate seat to contest strongly in the county.
While it is not time to panic by any stretch of the imagination, Crist’s numbers are worrying and the trends are unfortunately unmistakable. My fear is that Crist has been defined and moving voters into his column is going to be as difficult as it typically is for an unpopular or polarizing incumbent. Many didn’t believe this would be the case with Governor Crist, and I certainly hoped it would not be. Equally troubling is that Rick Scott who it long seemed had a ceiling of support somewhere in the upper 30s or low 40s seems to have broken that mark now in multiple polls over an extended period. This race was always going to tighten but now it has gotten far too close for comfort.