Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist Sunday ducked questions about whether he would line up with the Democrats or Republicans if he wins Florida's three-way Senate race against GOP nominee Marco Rubio and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek.
The question could potentially increase in importance if the Democrats lose significant ground in the midterm elections. An analysis
by polling analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com
says there are seven Democratic Senate seats that the party has better than a 50 percent chance of losing, and that there is a 20 percent overall probability the Democrats could lose 10 or more seats, costing them control of the Senate.
Pressed on CNN's State of the Union
about which caucus he would choose, Crist said, "I caucus with the people of Florida ... This is a moot question unless I win. So I've got to work very hard to continue to achieve the trust and support of my fellow Floridians to continue to be a public servant for them."
When CNN newsman Ed Henry asked, "don't (Florida voters) have a right to know which way you are going to go if you're elected" since his choice could affect the balance of power in the Senate, Crist responded, "I think they know the way I'm going to go. I'm going to go the way that is best for them, and I sincerely mean that. And that's very important. I don't have to say I'm going to caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans."
A Public Policy Polling survey
conducted Aug. 21-22 found Florida voters split at 41 percent each on which party Crist should side with, if he is elected. Nineteen percent were undecided.
But more of those surveyed said they would vote against him if he joined the Republicans than the Democrats. Fifty-seven percent said they wouldn't vote for Crist if he committed in advance to joining the Republicans while 23 percent said they would, with 20 percent undecided.
Forty-seven percent said they wouldn't vote for Crist if they knew he'd join the Democrats, while 37 percent said they would, with 17 percent undecided.
Crist needs significant Democratic support to go along with his backing from independents to win. In the PPP poll, he pulled in about half of the independent vote in hypothetical match-ups that included Meek or Greene as the Democrat, and he attracted 38 percent of Democrats against Meek and 48 percent against Greene.
Also appearing on CNN, Meek made clear he is going to push hard on the issue of Democratic credentials, saying, "I am the only Democratic candidate in this race. I am running against two career-long Republicans."
Ironically, Rubio is taking the opposite tack, depicting Crist as nothing more than just another Democrat.
"I'm running against two Democrats, but only one admits he's a Democrat," Rubio told the National Review
." That's what this race has become, an effort by the liberal establishment across the country to hold onto a yes vote. . . . He's the Manchurian Democrat."
Meek said on CBS' Face the Nation
that he's "pretty sure" that President Obama, who praised Meek during a fundraising stop in the state in mid-August, would campaign for him this Fall. He said he also expects former President Clinton, who did three rallies for Meek during the primary race, to be back for more.