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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Florida

Rubio's Unique Advantage

Marco_Rubio1.jpg
Marco Rubio is in Washington today, just five days after Florida Gov. Charlie Crist opted out of the Republican primary against Rubio to run instead as an independent. Rubio now has a somewhat unique advantage in a year when conservatives and the Republican establishment in Washington seem to be picking different candidates in GOP primaries -- he has the firm backing of both.

"I'm excited to have help from anyone who wants to help elect someone to the U.S. Senate who will stand up for free enterprise, limited government and a strong national defense," Rubio told reporters shortly before walking into a meeting on Capitol Hill.

Rubio said he spoke with Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, over the weekend and they "agreed to talk at some point and kind of figure out how we can work together."

Almost as quickly as they had endorsed Crist last year after he formally announced his candidacy, Cornyn and other Republican Senate leaders withdrew their endorsement Thursday following his exit from the primary. In doing so, they called Rubio an "emerging star" and promised him their "resources and support."

"When I first got in this race, virtually the entire establishment endorsed Governor Crist within 13 minutes of his announcement," said Rubio. "I can't tell you it was the most encouraging thing in my life, but it helped remind me why I was running. I wasn't running to win the D.C. primary, I wasn't running because I wanted to be part of the club. I was running because I believed that no one else in this race could say the things that I thought needed to be said."

With the Republican nomination locked up nearly four months before a primary would have been held, Rubio will have the advantage of the party's monetary support throughout the summer, if he needs it. The campaign had a remarkable first quarter of fundraising and now boasts picking up 2,400 new donors over the last two weeks through its "Flip the Switch" campaign, which is tied to Crist's party switch.

However, a three-way race with two candidates pulling Republican supporters will be a difficult hurdle to overcome. A new automated poll out this afternoon found Crist leading the two party-backed candidates with 38 percent of the vote. Rubio finished a close second with 34 percent, with Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek a distant third with 17 percent.

Crist and Rubio are virtually tied in the RCP Average, and RCP currently ranks the race as a Toss Up.

Cornyn: NRSC Backing "Not Necessarily Helpful" In Primaries

Hours before one of the National Republican Senatorial Committee's prized recruits is set to announce his decision to bolt from the GOP, Sen. John Cornyn (R) conceded that the national party may have been better off with a hands-off approach to primary battles.

"I think more than any time I've seen in the recent past, instead of a Contract for America, voters want a Contract from America. In other words, they want to be listened to, not lectured to, and not to have their choices made for them," he told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor today. "In this political environment, it's not necessarily helpful for candidates running in the states to have the national party chairman endorse them."

Cornyn was asked repeatedly about Gov. Charlie Crist's (R) looming decision on his Senate candidacy in Florida and the implications of his anticipated independent run. He defended his decision as NRSC chairman to back Crist despite the fact that Marco Rubio was already in the race.

"When Jeb Bush told me he wasn't going to run I looked around to the most popular Republican in the state, and it was pretty clear who that was," he said. "At the time we made the endorsement Governor Crist was one of the most popular governors in America, and I would say it's been a breathtaking change of circumstance to see him now contemplating this course after seeing his numbers plummet so dramatically."

Continue reading "Cornyn: NRSC Backing "Not Necessarily Helpful" In Primaries" »

Crist On Cheney Endorsement: "Do I Look Upset?"

Gov. Charlie Crist (R?) has been dodging questions about his political future amid speculation he'll abandon the GOP primary for U.S. Senate. But today, a Florida reporter was able to goad Crist into responding to today's endorsement of Marco Rubio by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Asked if he was upset about the news, Crist jokes: "Do I look upset?" He added that it was just another example of "a Washington politician telling Florida what to do."

Sounds like the makings of an independent platform.

Cantor Backs Rubio, Slams Crist For Abandoning GOP

Joining the herd of party leaders, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor endorsed Marco Rubio this morning while slamming Charlie Crist for considering an independent candidacy.

"He is firm in his principles and his beliefs, and he keeps his word," Cantor said on a conference call this morning. "That's the kind of leader that we need in the United States Senate."

Cantor said there were "warning signs" with Crist, specifically his decision last year to stand with President Obama in support of the stimulus bill.

"That caused a lot of us some concern," Cantor said. He alluded as well to last week's veto of a GOP-favored education bill. "Now we hear reports all about perhaps that the governor will seek an independent bid to run against Marco. And that to me shows that someone who has built a career based on our party and the principles that we stand for is ready to jettison that connection in order to stay in office. And I just think that right now we need an entirely different kind of leadership, a principled leadership, and an individual that will keep his word to the voters."

Rubio, meanwhile, downplayed the impact of Crist's potential move.

"I wanted the next U.S. Senator from Florida to be someone that I could trust to go to Washington, stand up to the Obama agenda and offer a clear alternative. Irrespective of what decisions other people make about this race, I still feel like I'm the only candidate in this race who's going to do that," he said. "I want to make sure that all this activity that's going on with regard to the process of politics doesn't distract us from what's gotten to this point and that is our focus on public policy."

Rubio has been endorsed just in the past two weeks by Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani as Crist has appeared more inclined to abandon the GOP primary. Cantor joins other members of the GOP leadership who've backed Rubio -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) and Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA).

Obama Drops Into Florida's Political Frenzy

President Obama makes his fourth visit to Florida today, one of only a half dozen states outside the Beltway he's visited that many times since entering the White House. He'll find a Sunshine State again rich with political intrigue, where major developments in the gubernatorial, Senate and Congressional races just this week point to an election cycle as busy as any in recent memory.

Obama's visit - to deliver an address on his space policy and to raise money for the Democratic National Committee - of course points to his own political interest in the state. Not since 1976 had a Democratic presidential nominee won 51 percent of the vote in Florida, as Obama did two years ago. But recent polling shows that his standing has slipped there as in many battlegrounds from 2008, something that could affect the entire Democratic ticket this fall.

Democrats had a voter registration advantage of 660,000 in 2008, after the party added 500,000 voters to its rolls between the 2006 and 2008 elections. Republican registration rose by 130,000. However, after a successful election year that also included picking up two Republican House seats, the party has no apparent edge in this year's midterm elections.

"I think it's lining up to be a pretty Republican year in Florida," said Central Florida University political scientist Aubrey Jewett, co-author of the book Politics in Florida. "Florida-specific polls show Obama's approval rating is about where it is around the country. And the average Floridian isn't happy with the health care bill."

Continue reading "Obama Drops Into Florida's Political Frenzy" »

Is New Scrutiny Of Rubio Too Late To Save Crist?

One of the first public polls released after Charlie Crist entered the Florida Senate race last May showed the governor with a 35 point lead. Ten months later, two polls in as many days showed Marco Rubio with a lead of over 30 points. Though five months remain until the GOP primary, Crist's campaign is now dogged by doubts about his viability even as he's taken a more aggressive posture against his rival.

"The conventional wisdom in Tallahassee is that it's beyond the point of return and there's almost nothing Charlie can do," Adam Smith, political editor for the St. Petersburg Times, told RCP Tuesday. But allies of Crist, he adds, maintain that "it's not too late, he's got a lot of money, and Marco Rubio is not a perfect candidate by any stretch."

Smith says that having detailed last week new questions about Rubio's political spending as he climbed through the ranks of the Florida Republican Party. This after statements were leaked documenting how Rubio used a Florida GOP credit card during his time as Florida House Speaker. Shortly after those documents were released, Crist seemed happy that his rival was finally getting serious scrutiny.

"Welcome to the NFL," he said. "If you can't take the heat get out of the kitchen."

Continue reading "Is New Scrutiny Of Rubio Too Late To Save Crist?" »

Military Tribunals A Big Applause Line At CPAC

Marco Rubio, in his morning keynote at CPAC, got no bigger applause line today than for attacking the Obama administration over prosecuting terrorists.

"We need to make it unmistakably clear that we will do whatever it takes for however long it takes to defeat radical Islamic terrorism," Rubio told hundreds in the Washington hotel ballroom.

That means, he said, destroying terror cells and their leaders. "The ones that survive, we will capture them," he said, to which someone in the audience shouted: "Waterboard them!" Rubio laughed, and simply continued: "We will capture them. We will get useful information from them. And then we will bring them to justice in front of a military tribunal in Guantanamo. Not a civilian courtroom in Manhattan."

Rubio's speech, his first major introduction to conservatives outisde the Sunshine State, was warmly received, and focused primarily on what he said was a critical moment that this fall's election represents. He did not mention Gov. Charlie Crist (R), his primary rival, by name. But he did allude to him at several times, saying at one point that "the U.S. Senate already has one Arlen Specter too many."

Continue reading "Military Tribunals A Big Applause Line At CPAC" »

Crist Camp Offers Mock Speech For Rubio

This morning I wrote about Marco Rubio's (R) upcoming keynote speech to the CPAC gathering tomorrow. This afternoon, Gov. Charlie Crist's (R) campaign looks to get out ahead of his moment in the spotlight by attempting to advance their narrative that the former House speaker is more hype than reality.

In a mock draft of Rubio's speech, the Crist camp has the candidate saying, "I'm thrilled many of you don't know me or what I've done during my 8 years in Tallahassee." They also acknowledge a sore spot for Crist in his effort to woo primary voters, as "Rubio" says, "I owe most of my recent success from a single photograph. I say, 'image is everything' - and luckily, I found a photo with the Governor of Florida greeting the President of the United States. And Presto! Instant candidacy for moi!"

You can read the full faux speech after the jump.

Continue reading "Crist Camp Offers Mock Speech For Rubio" »

CPAC Marks Rubio's Debut In National Spotlight

For all the attention Marco Rubio has received in the past year, he's still something of an unknown quantity to many of the conservative activists who have been drawn to his campaign for Senate in Florida. Considered a rising star on the right, Rubio now faces his first major audition on the national stage tomorrow when he delivers the opening keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

"It's safe to say that it's the largest audience that he's spoken to at any point in the campaign," said Alex Burgos, Rubio's campaign spokesman. "It's ultimately an opportunity to share his message, to share his experience with fellow conservatives and talk about the stakes in this race. It's an honor."

Rubio, former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, serves in a roll filled most recently by Paul Ryan and Mike Pence, Congressman seen as playing a key role in shaping the message of the GOP into the future. CPAC organizers point to their keynote speeches as launching pads for that leadership role.

"We try to select someone who we see as an articulate and thoughtful conservative who we believe will deliver an inspiring message to those attending the opening session of the conference, and who we believe is someone attendees should take notice of because he or she will have incredible influence inside and outside the movement in he future," said David Keene, CPAC chairman.

There will certainly be some pressure to justify the outsized persona Rubio has developed as a poster-child for the resurgent right (he's already graced the cover of National Review). And the audience Rubio will be speaking to at the conservative confab is expected to be one of the largest ever, organizers say, with as many as 10,000 attending.

Rubio released a Web video Tuesday previewing his address. "I really, truly believe America is at an extraordinary crossroads. We need to decide which kind of country we want to be going forward," he says.

Continue reading "CPAC Marks Rubio's Debut In National Spotlight" »

Crist: A "DeMint Republican"?

When President Obama arrives in Florida today, he'll be greeted by Gov. Charlie Crist (R). The governor's last appearance with Obama, at an event rallying support for the stimulus bill in February 2009, is at the heart of his troubles now in a primary race for U.S. Senate. He skipped the president's last visit to Florida. But today he says he's meeting the president to send him a message.

"I'm also going to tell them ... that I'm disappointed that not enough bipartisanship has occurred," he told a Florida radio station this morning. "He talks about it and he gives a great speech, but he's got to follow through on the action, and not just have Republicans come to the table."

Former House Speaker Marco Rubio has pulled ahead of Crist in a recent Quinnipiac poll, capitalizing on the unease conservatives have with Crist's record. Crist attributed some of that to the "angst" among voters nationwide and especially in Florida, and also his opponent's full-time campaign.

"I've got a day job, a pretty important one, actually," he said. "When you're out there campaigning all the time you can build up support, and obviously that's happened and I understand that. My focus, however, is on being the bets governor I can be."

There was a bit of a stir this morning online about a claim that Crist had called himself a "DeMint Republican" in the interview. In fact, listening to the audio it's clear the governor never uttered those words. But he did seem to agree with the questioner that he should not be painted as a "McCain Republican." Here's the exchange:

Q: "Why do you think you've been painted as a moderate Republican as opposed to -- a John McCain-like Republican -- as opposed to someone like a Jim DeMint, for example?"

CRIST: "I really don't know. I mean, you know, probably because it's a political season. And, you know, somebody's trying to win a primary, so they try and paint you into a particular picture that doesn't really meet reality. Listen, it's a long way until this primary happens. We got about seven months to go. And what I love about a campaign, it's an educational opportunity for the whole truth to come out. And it will.

For the record, Crist also called himself a "a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-family conservative Republican with common sense." Asked for a reaction, a spokesman for DeMint passed along the senator's thoughts: "I'm a Marco Rubio Republican."

In fact, DeMint's PAC has organized a "money bomb" to drive money to Rubio's campaign, built around the anniversary of the Obama-Crist "embrace."

Crist Raises $2M In 4th Quarter

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's Senate campaign has not gone according to plan, with a conservative primary challenger now leading him in the polls. However, the Crist campaign just announced another successful fundraising quarter, bringing in $2 million from October through December, to end the year with $7.5 million in the bank.

"We have received phenomenal and broad support from Florida voters," said Crist campaign manager Eric Eikenberg. "We continue to get unwavering fundraising donations as our supporters help us spread Governor Crist's positive message of less government, low taxes, and a market based approach to health care."

A Quinnipiac survey released this morning found former state House speaker Marco Rubio leading Crist in the GOP primary by a 47%-44% margin. In the RCP Average, Crist now holds just a 2.4-point lead.

Rubio announced today raising an impressive $1.75 million in the 4th quarter, and ends the year with $2 million on hand. At the end of the 3rd fundraising quarter, Crist had $6.2 million on hand to Rubio's $900,000.

Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), the likely Democratic nominee, will report raising $1.2 million in the 4th quarter. He's raised a total of $4.5 million since the start of the campaign and begins the year with more than $3 million in the bank.

(This post was updated two hours after originally published to show Rubio's numbers.)

Diaz-Balart Brothers Un-Endorse Crist

In what could be a major blow to the Senate campaign of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) have both withdrawn their endorsements of him. The Diaz-Balart brothers are of Cuban descent and represent Miami congressional districts with large Cuban populations that lean Republican.

From McClatchy Newspapers:

Lincoln Diaz-Balart in a phone interview Tuesday offered few details, just that Crist had "left us no alternative and he knows why.'' ... The move is a setback to the governor's campaign, which has struggled in recent weeks with sliding poll numbers. Lincoln Diaz-Balart said the withdrawal has nothing to do with Crist's recent political performance and said the decision was made weeks ago. But their names were only recently pulled off Crist's Web page.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart said the brothers are unlikely to endorse anyone else in the race -- including former House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart has represented Florida's 21st District, which at 71% has the highest Latino population in the state, since 1992. Mario has repped the 25th District, with a 67% Latino population, since 1992.

Florida Is A Race To Watch

Marco Rubio, the conservative darling in the open Florida Senate race, finished last week on rocky ground for the first time in the campaign, after admitting he would have accepted the same stimulus money he's been attacking his GOP primary opponent, Gov. Charlie Crist, for taking. The stumble was a brief one. By Tuesday, Mr. Rubio was basking in a new Rasmussen poll of likely Republican primary voters that found him tied with Mr. Crist at 43% apiece. As recently as August, Mr. Crist led by 22 points. Mr. Rubio's favorable rating was also higher than Mr. Crist's and his unfavorable rating lower.

More good headlines came a day later with a Rasmussen poll of general election voters. It found that, in matchups against the putative Democratic nominee, Kendrick Meek, a congressman from Miami, Mr. Rubio led the Democrat by 49% to 35%, while Mr. Crist led Mr. Meek by a slimmer margin of only 42%-36%.

One reason the national party backed Mr. Crist from the start was his fundraising ability. However, Mr. Rubio's campaign is now fielding donations from its own national network. Club for Growth, an anti-tax group, announced Wednesday it had bundled $100,000 in a month for the upstart conservative. Florida's August primary remains a long way off and Mr. Rubio will need a lot more money to keep up with Mr. Crist, who had more than $6 million by the end of September. But Mr. Rubio's name-recognition is climbing quickly, eliminating the edge that the GOP establishment once assumed was Mr. Crist's birthright.

Mr. Crist was endorsed by the national party just minutes after announcing his candidacy in May, despite the fact that Mr. Rubio was already in the race. That move by the National Republican Senatorial Committee angered many rank-and-file conservatives, who are also upset at similar action by the national party in Senate races in California and Kentucky. The Florida race is rapidly shaping up as a classic confrontation of the establishment moderate versus the grassroots-backed conservative, with sizeable implications for the GOP as it goes toward the 2012 presidential race.

FL Sen Poll: Rubio Ties Crist

Big news in the Florida Senate contest: a new Rasmussen survey (431 LVs, 12/14, MoE +/- 5%) shows that the insurgent Marco Rubio is now tied with Gov. Charlie Crist.

Primary Election Matchup
Crist 43 (-6 vs. last poll, 10/19)
Rubio 43 (+8)
Und 9 (-3)

Crist led 53-31 in an August survey; his lead in the RCP Average is down to 8.4.

Rubio is viewed very favorably by a whopping one-third of these primary voters, compared to 19 percent for Crist. One-in-five voters was unsure, meaning there is still some room to grow.

Favorable Ratings
Rubio 64 / 15
Crist 61 / 38

The August 2010 primary is closed only to registered Republicans, which spells trouble for Crist as he's struggled to define himself as a true conservative. Rasmussen:

Fifty-six percent (56%) of likely GOP Primary voters approve of Crist's performance as governor. Forty-three percent (43%) disapprove of the job he is doing. These numbers are virtually unchanged from October and don't represent particularly strong support by voters for a governor from their own party. Only 11% Strongly Approve while 15% Strongly Disapprove.

Rubio: I Would Have Taken Stimulus Money

Did Marco Rubio just blur the lines on what had been his chief weapon against Charlie Crist in the Florida Senate race? In the words of one GOP operative, this story on the St. Pete Times' Web site "is about to explode."

We've struggled lately to get a clear answer from Marco Rubio on whether as governor he would have accepted money from the federal stimulus package about which he is so critical. Keith Cate on Tampa Bay's NBC affiliate got a clearer answer (See here):

"Ultimately I would have accepted those portions of the money that would not have put Florida in a worse position off in the future than it is right now," Rubio said.

Crist's advocacy of the stimulus package, appearing with President Obama at a Florida rally, has been the chief hammer in Rubio's insurgent effort. Only days ago, he sought to use the White House's latest jobs plans, which some call a second stimulus, against the Florida governor. "As a supporter of the first stimulus, Charlie Crist should acknowledge its failures and condemn this new call for a stimulus sequel that will grow our government and deficit at the expense of lasting private sector investment," Rubio said in a statement.

So can Rubio now continue to criticize Crist on the issue when he himself says he would have accepted money from the very same package? A Rubio spokesman has not yet weighed in.

UPDATE 2: The Rubio campaign now responds, arguing that Rubio's position on this issue has been entirely consistent, as opposed to Crist's evolving explanations on whether he did or did not support the stimulus program. They claim Crist's camp is now simply trying to "muddy the waters" in an attempt to distract from that record.

"We know Charlie Crist has been all over the map in his rationale for supporting this," Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos tells RCP. "I think that we're on strong ground in terms of what Marco would have done: he would have opposed it with every tool at his disposal, he would have rallied against it, and he would have rallied support for a conservative alternative."

UPDATE 1: After the jump, see how Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek's campaign pounces on the quote:

Continue reading "Rubio: I Would Have Taken Stimulus Money" »

Club For Growth Backs Rubio, Unfazed By NY-23 Fallout

With the endorsement today of Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate race, the Club For Growth sends a message that it is not deterred by a defeat last week of its preferred candidate in the New York 23 race.

"We have no hesitation at all," Club for Growth (CFG) president Chris Chocola told RCP today. "The Hoffman race was certainly a disappointment. We would have rather won than lost. But we look for champions of economic freedom wherever they might be."

Chocola, a former Indiana Congressman, disputed the idea that the New York special election was a feud within the Republican Party, arguing that Dede Scozzafava "was never a real Republican." The real lesson from the result, Chocola said, was that the electorate "is very energized," as shown by Hoffman getting 48% of the vote and nearly winning as a third party candidate.

"We believe that the center of the electorate is essentially for limited government and tolerant on social issues," Chocola said. "If you run unapologetically as a fiscal conservative, and you reflect your district on social issues, I think you'll win a lot more times than you're going to lose."

The endorsement of Rubio, which was not unexpected, is the second in a Senate race by Club For Growth in the 2010 cycle. Its early support for former CFG President Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania preceded Arlen Specter's decision to switch parties. And it comes as Gov. Charlie Crist (R) faces renewed criticism in the Florida Republican Senate primary over his support for the Obama administration's Recovery Act.

Last week the CFG launched an ad built around a clip of Crist's appearance with President Obama at a town hall meeting in the Sunshine State last winter. The organization has been monitoring this race for some time, but held back on an endorsement until Rubio's campaign showed improvement in his fundraising.


Continue reading "Club For Growth Backs Rubio, Unfazed By NY-23 Fallout" »

FL Sen: Rubio Cuts Into Crist's Primary Lead

Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio has chopped down Gov. Charlie Crist's lead in the Republican Senate primary, according to two new polls out yesterday. Quinnipiac and Rasmussen found the first-term, moderate governor leading the more-conservative Rubio by 15 and 14 points.

In the Quinnipiac poll (Oct. 12-18, 1078 RV, MoE +/- 3%), Crist's 29-point lead in August has been cut nearly in half as Rubio has been able to win over national and state conservatives. However, Crist holds a 20-point lead against Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) in the general election, while Rubio trails by 3. As a congressman from Miami, Meek remains an unknown entity to much of the state, even more so than Rubio.

Senate GOP Primary
Crist 50 (-5 vs. last poll, Aug. 19)
Rubio 35 (+9)
Und 12 (-6)

Senate General Election
Crist 51
Meek 31
Und 14

Meek 36
Rubio 33
Und 28

The Q-Poll also tested the governor's race. It found Atty. Gen. Bill McCollum on his way to an easy victory in the GOP primary, and a 4-point lead in the general election over state CFO Alex Sink, with 27% undecided.

The Rasmussen poll (Oct. 19, 466 LV, MoE +/- 4.5%) showed an almost identical margin between the two Republican Senate candidates.

Crist 49 (-4 vs. last poll, Aug. 18)
Rubio 35 (+4)
Und 12

A separate Rasmussen survey out today (Oct. 19, 1000 LV, MoE +/- 3%) in the governor's race found McCollum up 9 points with 15% undecided.

The Money Race In Florida

Gov. Charlie Crist (R), the NRSC's favored candidate in the Florida Senate race, announced another impressive fundraising haul today. In the third quarter, Crist raised $2.4 million, giving him $6.2 million cash on hand.

"I am overwhelmed by the support we received during our second quarter and throughout the first five months of the campaign," Crist said in a statement.

It's not clear how much of the money Crist raised included money that would only be available in a general election campaign. Crist had raised $4.4 million in the previous quarter.

Crist's GOP challenger, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), announced earlier this week that he topped $1 million in the quarter, a big improvement from his $350,000 haul in the previous period. A Rubio spokesman said their total is almost all money targeted toward the primary.

Rep. Kendrick Meek (D), the leading potential general election challenger, has not yet announced his third-quarter total. A spokesman said he will likely wait to announce at this weekend's state Democratic convention. He now faces a new primary challenger, former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre.

Rubio Raises Close to $1M in 3rdQ

Marco Rubio, the upstart, conservative challenger to the NRSC-backed Gov. Charlie Crist, announced today in an e-mail to supporters that he raised "almost $1 million during the 3rd quarter" fundraising period.

Crist has not yet announced his fundraising total for the months of July, August and September, though it's likely to be well ahead of Rubio. Exact totals won't be known until the Oct. 15 filing deadline.

Still, the fundraising quarter was a success for the campaign, Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos told RealClearPolitics. Rubio has always known he can't compete financially with Crist, but instead will rely on a more grassroots approach. Whatever Rubio's exact number is, it will be far more than his 2nd quarter take of $350,000; Crist raised $4.4 million last quarter.

Burgos confirmed to RCP a report that Karl Rove had donated money to the campaign. He said the donation took place over the internet Saturday Oct. 3, so it won't show up on a fundraising report until the 4th quarter, due Jan. 15.

Jeb Bush: Give Rubio a Chance

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush hasn't endorsed either GOP Senate candidate in Florida -- Gov. Charlie Crist or former State House Speaker Marco Rubio -- and he said recently that the national Republican Party shouldn't have either.

"I think he should be given a chance," Bush said of Rubio on Friday at a local Republican club function, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "I think that the idea that the national party would pick a winner a year and a half before an election is the wrong way to go."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.) endorsed Crist May 12, just minutes after the governor formally announced his bid.

As for his own elective office prospects, Bush -- who turned down a chance to run for Senate and also took his name out of the mix to temporarily replace retired senator Mel Martinez -- said he's "going to focus on education reform," not running for office.

Rubio Scores Congressional Endorsement

Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio (R) picked up a major endorsement today, as Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) announced her support for the conservative state legislator.

"Originally, I had not planned to endorse in this race, but as the challenges facing our nation and Florida grow more severe, times demand someone willing to make hard choices," said Brown-Waite in a statement released by the Rubio campaign. "Washington needs leaders with solid conservative beliefs and the courage to do the right thing. Marco Rubio does not try to be all things to all people. Like me, what you see is what you get. Marco Rubio is the consistent, principled conservative we need to provide a check and balance on the Obama-Reid agenda."

Brown-Waite, who hails from a Gulf Coast district west of Orlando, has a voting record that places her in the middle of the House GOP, according to National Journal's vote ratings, though she's recently been more conservative on foreign policy and immigration issues. Earlier this week she spoke out on the House floor in support of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), shortly before the chamber passed a resolution of disapproval for his behavior during President Obama's speech.

This is one of Rubio's biggest endorsements. He was previously endorsed by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), who appeared alongside Rubio at a Capitol Hill press conference earlier this year.

Crist Reportedly Set To Appoint Former Aide To Senate

The AP is reporting that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) will appoint his former chief of staff, George LeMieux, to replace Mel Martinez in the U.S. Senate. A formal announcement will come at 11:15 am. The Miami Herald also reported that LeMieux was the likely pick, adding these details:

In choosing LeMieux, Crist signaled that personal loyalty and political instincts mattered more than any potential perception of cronyism.

What's more, the clean-cut, well-spoken, 40-year-old LeMieux could serve as an effective surrogate for Crist on the campaign trial. LeMieux was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale and served as chairman of the Broward Republican Party from 2000 to 2002.

The two men have been in lockstep since 2002, when Crist was elected state attorney general and made LeMieux his deputy. LeMieux went on to earn the nickname, ''the maestro'' for orchestrating Crist's successful gubernatorial campaign and served as his right-hand-man for one year. Even after he left the Capitol for the Gunster Yoakley & Stewart law firm, LeMieux remained one of Crist's most trusted confidantes.

UPDATE: Florida Democrats are responding by accusing Crist of playing "political games with the public's trust" by appointing LeMieux. Read an excerpt of their statement after the jump.

Continue reading "Crist Reportedly Set To Appoint Former Aide To Senate" »

Rubio: Conservative Test Case?

Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio (R) gets the cover treatment in the forthcoming issue of National Review, highlighting his uphill race against Gov. Charlie Crist (R).

rubio_coverweb.jpg

Though several stories of late have focused on a Rubio exit strategy, either dropping out from the race or a musical chairs appointment scheme that would land him in Congress, the piece by John J. Miller sees momentum for the upstart challenger.

Rubio's efforts on the campaign trail are starting to pay off. This summer, he has won lopsided victories in straw polls conducted by GOP executive committees. In June, Pasco County Republicans favored Rubio by a vote of 73 to 9. In July, Rubio trounced Crist in Lee County (60 to 11) and Highland County (75 to 1). Technically, these tallies are meaningless. Yet they express a growing disillusionment with Crist at the party's core. The governor's global-warming alarmism has unsettled conservatives for a long time. Then there's his appointment of a liberal to the state supreme court, his approval of a state budget that raises cigarette taxes, and his hug of Obama at a political event in support of the president's spending plans. On August 12, Republicans in Palm Beach County held a vote to censure Crist. The measure failed, but only because the final vote was a tie. In this environment, Rubio begins to look like an attractive alternative.

FL SEN: Jeb Out, Crist Promises Transparent Process

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has a few weeks to make a decision on who should replace Sen. Mel Martinez (R) in the U.S. Senate. There's a long list of potential choices, but as of today it does not include former Gov. Jeb Bush. From a statement today to the Miami Herald:

"As Governor Bush indicated earlier this year when he decided against a run for the U.S. Senate, now is not the right time for him to return to public office. In response to your question, Governor Bush is not interested in serving out the remainder of Senator Martinez's term," says spokeswoman Kristy Campbell.

Crist spoke to reporters this morning about his decision-making process. Here's the St. Pete Times' writeup:

Crist said he has not decided on an appointment. But he vowed to take great care and deliberation. Names are already emerging, with the consensus being he'll appoint a known, trusted person who has no desire to hold the seat for more than the duration of Martinez's final term.

"It's an important decision, and I want to make sure it's transparent," said Crist, who faces former House Speaker Marco Rubio in the Republican primary for the seat and is expected to face off against Democrat Kendrick Meek in the 2010 general election.

"I want to make sure the people interviewed are people of integrity and character," Crist said, adding that he is "not sure" if he will do all the interviews himself.

FL Sen Poll: Crist Leads, But Rubio Gaining

A new Mason-Dixon poll in Florida shows that Gov. Charlie Crist (R) continues to lead former House Speaker Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate race. But Rubio is gaining in the polls as he becomes more familiar to state voters.

Republican Primary Election Matchup
Crist 51 (-2 from May)
Rubio 23 (+5)
Undecided 26 (-3)

In the May survey, 56 percent of Republican voters did not recognize Rubio. That number is down to 48 percent in the past month. Among voters who recognize both candidates, the race is much closer: Crist leads with 33 percent, with Rubio at 31 percent and 36 percent undecided.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) still leads in what is a much more fluid race. The May survey tested Meek against state Sen. Dan Gelber, who has since decided to run for state Attorney General. Fellow U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown (D) has since suggested she will run.

Democratic Primary Election Matchup
Meek 27 (+1)
Brown 12 (N/A)
Undecided 61 (+3)

Crist wins easily in a general election matchup against both candidates, though his numbers have slipped from a May matchup against Meek.

General Election Matchup
Crist 48 (-7)
Meek 26 (+2)
Undecided 26 (+5)

Crist 55
Brown 24
Undecided 21

The survey of 625 registered voters was conducted June 24-26, and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent. Each primary subset was of 300 likely primary voters, with a margin of error of +/- 6 percent.

Rubio Claims Strength In Key GOP Turf

Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio (R) today announced the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller (R). Miller represents Pensacola and the rest of the west Panhandle region in the First District, which the Rubio camp says is one of the state's most solidly Republican congressional districts.

"Americans deserve better than the current big government, borrow-and-spend road we are on, and I believe Marco Rubio will be a compelling voice to lead us to a stronger and more prosperous America," said Miller, who replaced now-talk show host Joe Scarborough in Congress in 2001.

Rubio already claims a base of support in the Cuban-American portions of Miami-Dade County, and so his campaign is now arguing a firm foundation with the bookend advantage in the "two most Republican parts of Florida."

The former state House Speaker has been making steady progress in what has been considered an uphill fight. Last week he earned the endorsement of conservative South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), and added Mike Huckabee's endorsement this week. He also won a recent straw vote in Pasco County.

Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has said he would focus his efforts on state matters this year before gearing up for the campaign.

Rubio Invites Crist to Debate

Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) has invited fellow Senate candidate Gov. Charlie Crist (R) to a series of debates over the next 14 months. In a letter sent to Crist this morning, Rubio admits that he'll likely face a steep fundraising disadvantage and "have to work twice as hard as you to remain competitive."

Rubio wants at least 10 debates, with one in each of Florida's media markets. The televised debates will help Rubio pick up some free media exposure, which he'll need with Crist surely to blanket the airwaves with ads.

"While we are opponents for the same office, I am also confident we can maintain a cordial and respectful debate that will help our campaigns rise above the typical 30-second commercials, slick slogans and bumper stickers that define too many of our country's political contests," Rubio writes.

Rubio and Crist will officially face off August 24, 2010, when Florida primary voters head to the polls.

DeMint Endorses Rubio At Joint Hill Event

6-16-09_Rubio-DeMint.jpg

Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) endorsement this morning of Marco Rubio in next year's Florida Senate race puts the first term senator at odds with his party leadership, which is backing Gov. Charlie Crist. With Rubio by his side at a press conference on Capitol Hill today, DeMint emphasized that Rubio is the kind of leader Republicans need to win back power in Congress and get the country back on the right track.

"We've got a real diamond in our own backyard," DeMint said of the former Florida House speaker. "And he'll be one of the ones to lead our party out of the wilderness."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee endorsed Crist just minutes after he announced his candidacy last month. The campaign committee explained that it saw Crist as the most electable in the general election, though DeMint argued today that Rubio was just as electable.

Before announcing his endorsement, DeMint spoke with both NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who said "he's fine with the direction I'm going," DeMint said. At the press conference, the senator railed against any Republican who believes there should not be a primary.

Crist's name I.D. and national party backing will give him what's expected to be a large fundraising advantage over the young state representative. The exact numbers won't be known until next month when campaign finance reports are due.

"Marco's in a lot better position to win than I was" in 2004, DeMint argued. "Fundraising will come."

Rubio assured reporters he knows what he's getting himself into.

"I'm not involved in a fundraising contest," Rubio said. "We're going to raise the money we need to communicate with voters. I'm fully cognizant of what this race will require."

A Quinnipiac University survey released last week found Crist leading with 54 percent to Rubio's 23 percent. Besides fundraising, Crist also holds a high favorability rating among voters -- yet another obstacle for Rubio's chances. The two will meet in September 2010.

During a morning phone call from Crist, DeMint said he told the governor he would support his Senate candidacy if he makes it to the general election, but that he was throwing his full support behind the more conservative Rubio in the primary. DeMint's support for Rubio stems from when they first met a few weeks ago, during which, he told reporters today, he was moved by what Rubio had to say.

"When I heard him talk about his vision for the country, I wanted to break down and weep because I don't hear those words spoken too often," DeMint said.

DeMint Joins Rubio In DC Tomorrow

Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio will be joined in Washington tomorrow by a leading conservative voice in the Senate, Jim DeMint of South Carolina. The Rubio camp would not confirm or deny that an endorsement will be made.

The trip to DC comes as the Rubio camp is making its case to supporters that its insurgent Senate campaign can be successful against Gov. Charlie Crist (R). The St. Pete Times has a link to a memo currently making the rounds, calling the primary battle "Ground Zero in the struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party".

  • There is a tremendous and untapped reservoir of motivated activists, voters and donors who are driven to support a candidate that represents principled conservative values. These voters are looking for a candidate whom they trust with a belief in the power of individuals and personal responsibility, not a bloated more costly federal government.
  • Marco often says that "our party and our nation are at a critical crossroads." Republicans not just in Florida but across the country are looking for leadership that will re‐build the GOP based on proven strengths, a party that has a clear message, a party that has a purpose beyond simply protecting its power. But what kind of leader will that be? The voice of strong conservative principles to stand in opposition to the liberal agenda. Or more of the same Washington politicians concerned with electability and popularity rather than governing with principle through hard times.
  • More highlights from the memo after the jump:


    Continue reading "DeMint Joins Rubio In DC Tomorrow" »

    FL Sen Poll: Crist Leads, Dems Unknown

    Florida Gov. Charlie Crist doubles up State Rep. Marco Rubio in the Republican Senate primary, while more than half of Democratic voters don't yet have a favorite candidate, a new Quinnipiac survey finds. President Obama has a 58% approval rating (down 6 points from February), with Crist's slightly higher at 62% -- down 4 points from last month.

    "Marco Rubio says there are many Florida Republicans who don't want Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate," said Quinnipiac assistant director Peter Brown. "Depending on how you define the word 'many,' he might be correct. Unfortunately for Rubio at this stage, many, many, many more favor Crist."

    Democrats tested were Reps. Kendrick Meek, Corrine Brown and Ron Klein.

    GOP Primary
    Crist 54
    Rubio 23
    Und 21

    Dem Primary
    Meek 18
    Brown 12
    Klein 8
    Und 57

    Florida Poll: Crist Cruising In GOP Primary

    A new Mason Dixon poll of Florida voters shows that Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has a solid early lead in the race for his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate.

    Republican Primary Matchup
    Crist 53
    Rubio 18
    Undecided 29

    Former House Speaker Marco Rubio had announced for the seat prior to Crist, and has much lower name recognition in the Sunshine State. Among likely Republican primary voters, 50 percent had a favorable impression of Crist, compared to 19 percent unfavorable. Rubio's ratio was 20/2, with another 56 percent saying they did not recognize him.

    In the Democratic race, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) maintains an early edge over state Sen. Dan Gelber.

    Democratic Primary Matchup
    Meek 26
    Gelber 16
    Undecided 58

    In early general election matchups, Crist defeats either Democrat.

    General Election Matchup
    Crist 55
    Meek 24
    Undecided 21

    Crist 57
    Gelber 22
    Undecided 21

    Each party sample size was 300 likely primary voters, with a margin of error of +/- 6%. The general election matchups are taken from a survey of 625 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

    After the jump, an early look at numbers in the gubernatorial race, with the field only now coming together.

    Continue reading "Florida Poll: Crist Cruising In GOP Primary" »

    Club For Growth: Crist Could Be Next Specter

    The Club For Growth is considering weighing in on the Florida Senate race, and offers a warning to Gov. Charlie Crist (R).

    "We're deeply concerned about Crist's liberal record on fiscal issues so we're doing our due diligence and currently weighing a possible involvement in the race," said spokesperson Andy Roth. "Crist could easily become the new Specter."

    From White House Ally To Senate Foe?

    Just three months after the president shared a stage with Gov. Charlie Crist (R) in Florida, the White House today signaled that Obama would likely support his Democratic opponent in the Senate race.

    Press secretary Robert Gibbs said it was too early to speculate about whether Obama would campaign in Florida against Crist. But when asked if Obama would support the Democratic nominee, Gibbs said that the president "generally support[s] Democratic nominees." "I think you have a sense of where the president's party allegiance lies," he added.

    During a town hall meeting in Fort Myers this February, Obama thanked Crist for his strong public backing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. "Governor Crist shares my conviction that creating jobs and turning this economy around is a mission that transcends party," he said. "When the town is burning, we don't check party labels. Everyone needs to grab a hose! Governor Crist and governors across the country understand that."

    These words could be very helpful to Crist in a general election campaign. But of course, Crist needs to get through a Republican primary first, and today he was asked if his support for the stimulus package could backfire amongst a conservative electorate.

    "I think what's important to bear in mind is that we do things a little bit differently here in Florida and that's another reason that I run for the United States Senate. We work together to solve problems and do what's right for the people of our state," Crist said, according to CNN. "The people are the boss. And I think, regardless of party, we have to work together to get things done. And that's what I'd like to take to Washington, D.C."

    NRSC, McConnell Endorse Crist

    Well that was fast. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who formally announced a bid for Senate this morning, has already been endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

    The GOP leaders announced their support for Crist despite the fact that another respected Republican is running -- State Rep. Marco Rubio, the former Florida House speaker. Already facing an uphill battle against Crist in the Aug. 24, 2010 primary, the NRSC's endorsement -- which implies financial and organizational help for Crist -- makes the climb that much steeper for Rubio. Not to mention, the state party is touting their endorsements on its website.

    "While I believe Marco Rubio has a very bright future within the Republican Party, Charlie Crist is the best candidate in 2010 to ensure that we maintain the checks and balances that Floridians deserve in the United States Senate," Cornyn said, acknowledging the snub. "Governor Crist is a dedicated public servant and a dynamic leader, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee will provide our full support to ensure that he is elected the next United States Senator from Florida."

    Crist Announces Senate Bid, Promising To "Put People First"

    The Florida Republican Party released a statement on behalf of Gov. Charlie Crist (R) making his decision to run for the U.S. Senate official.

    "Here in Florida, we've shown that when we put people first and work together much can be accomplished, and I intend to bring that same approach to Washington," Crist says.

    The NRSC quickly endorsed Crist, even as he faces a primary challenge from former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio.

    "While I believe Marco Rubio has a very bright future within the Republican Party, Charlie Crist is the best candidate in 2010 to ensure that we maintain the checks and balances that Floridians deserve in the United States Senate," Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said in a statement. "Governor Crist is a dedicated public servant and a dynamic leader, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee will provide our full support to ensure that he is elected the next United States Senator from Florida."

    Rubio expressed disappointment at the NRSC's endorsement, saying on his Twitter feed: "Remember that reform must always come from the outside. Status quo won't change itself." He also posted this YouTube video, titled "Let the Debate Begin."

    The state's primary is August 24, 2010. Crist's full statement is after the jump.

    Continue reading "Crist Announces Senate Bid, Promising To "Put People First"" »

    Dems Take Aim at Crist

    Although he hasn't yet announced his intentions, Democrats are already targeting Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who would be considered a strong candidate for the state's open Senate seat.

    The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee distributed to reporters a recent piece in the Sun-Sentinel, which reported that there have been 62 days since Crist took office in January 2007 that the governor has had an empty schedule -- in other words, he hasn't been at work.

    "As Floridians struggle with job reductions, home foreclosures and dwindling bank accounts, Crist has enjoyed a jet-setting lifestyle, mixing with celebrities, attending charity balls, staying at grand hotels and relaxing in his new wife's $4 million condo on Miami's Fisher Island," the newspaper reported.

    DSCC communications director Eric Schultz responds with this statement: "Given how badly Floridians have been hit by the housing crisis and the recent jump in unemployment, it's surprising -- to say the least -- that Governor Crist affords himself so much time off. At a time when Floridians expect their elected officials to work around the clock on the dire economic problems plaguing the state, Governor Crist may want to think twice about continuing such a lackadaisical schedule."

    Senate Nomination Crist's For Taking; Dems Unknown In Florida

    As we noted this morning, 42 percent of Florida voters believe Gov. Charlie Crist (R) should run for re-election, with 26 percent supporting a potential Senate run.

    The Quinnipiac survey (April 6-13, 1,332 voters, MoE +/- 2.7 percent) also shows that the Democratic field is largely unsettled. Tested were announced candidates, Rep. Kendrick Meek and state Sen. Dan Gelber, as well as potential candidates, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Rep. Ron Klein.

    Primary Election Matchup
    Meek 16 (-1)
    Iorio 15 (unch)
    Klein 8 (-6)
    Gelber 5 (unch)
    Undecided 53 (+10)

    On the Republican side, Qunnipiac tests a primary race with or without Crist. Other candidates include former House Speaker Marco Rubio, another former House Speaker, Allan Bense, and Rep. Vern Buchanan. A previous poll, conducted in February, included Rep. Connie Mack, who has since taken himself out of the running.

    Primary Election Matchup (without Crist)
    Buchanan 16 (+5)
    Rubio 11 (+5)
    Bense 3 (-1)
    Undecided 66 (+28)

    With Crist
    Crist 54 (+1)
    Rubio 8 (+5)
    Buchanan 8 (+3)
    Bense 2 (unch)
    Undecided 25 (+4)

    Most of the candidates, Democrats in particular, are largely unknown quantities statewide. After the jump, see fav/unfav ratings for the potential candidates

    Continue reading "Senate Nomination Crist's For Taking; Dems Unknown In Florida" »

    FL Poll: Half Would Consider Crist For Senate

    A new Mason Dixon poll conducted for the SayfieReview shows that Gov. Charlie Crist (R) would be a formidable candidate if he were to seek Florida's open U.S. Senate seat in 2010.

    Half of Florida voters said they would consider voting for the first-term incumbent, should he seek the seat, with another 17 percent saying he would definitely have their vote. But 26 percent said they definitely would not vote for Crist, while 7 percent were undecided. Notably, 12 percent of Democrats said they would definitely vote for Crist, though the poll did not provide any matchups with potential candidates.

    If Crist decides to run to replace Mel Martinez in the U.S. Senate, the poll finds Florida voters evenly split on who they'd like to see replace Crist as governor. The poll tested Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum and Democrat Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink as candidates.

    General Election Matchup
    McCollum 36
    Sink 35
    Undecided 29

    McCollum had slightly stronger support among fellow Republicans than Sink showed among Democrats, though she does have a modest lead among independent voters, 40-34 percent.

    Crist has not yet indicated whether he'll seek re-election or run for Senate. Rep. Connie Mack (R), thought to have been a likely Senate candidate before speculation grew about Crist, took himself out of the race just yesterday. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) is among the Democrats already running for Senate; he announced raising $1.5 million in the first quarter.

    The poll tested 625 Florida registered voters between March 30 and April 1, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

    McCollum Won't Run For Florida Senate Seat

    Florida Atty. Gen. Bill McCollum announced today that he will not seek the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Mel Martinez in 2010. McCollum is the second potential top GOP candidate to decide against running, following former Gov. Jeb Bush.

    "Over the past several weeks since the announcement of Senator Mel Martinez that he would not seek re-election, I have given considerable thought to the possibility of running for his United States Senate seat," McCollum said in a press release. "Unless circumstances change it is my intention, at the appropriate time, to announce that I will be seeking re-election as Florida's Attorney General."

    McCollum was elected attorney general in 2006, following two unsuccessful Senate bids in 2000 and 2004. He served in the U.S. House from 1980 to 2000.

    On the Democratic side, seven-term Rep. Allen Boyd also announced today that he will not seek the Senate seat. Boyd's Democratic House colleague Kendrick Meek tossed his hat in the ring two weeks ago.