April 29, 2010


Rubio's Path Easiest, Crist's Challenging, in Potential Three-Way Race (Nate Silver, 4/22/10, FiveThiryEight)

I think that Crist is going to have a great deal of trouble holding onto his remaining Republican support. Right now, Crist is preferred to Rubio by about one-third of Republian registered voters, according to Quinnipiac. But, even though there are some moderate Republicans in Florida (38 percent of the Republican presidential primary electorate in 2008 described themselves as moderate or liberal), it's asking a lot of a Republican identifier to continue to support a candidate who has just ditched the party -- particularly when it seems to be motivated by expediency rather than ideological resolve (Crist's lack of grivatas, even when compared with someone like Arlen Specter or Joe Lieberman, will hurt him here). Plus, Rubio, already very well liked by conservatives, will get to do a bit of a victory lap as the sole viable candidate on the primary ballot, and can immediately turn his attention to broadening his appeal among party moderates. This might not even require all that much effort; Rubio's favorability rating among Republicans is 67-7 (!) according to Quinnipiac, and while quite conservative, he seems from a distance to avoid coming across as any kind of dangerous extremist.

If you play around with the "what-if calculator" that Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal created, and give Rubio, say, 75-80 percent of the Republican vote along with a bare minimum of 25 percent of the independent vote and a few percentage points of Democratic support, he seems to have a floor of about 36 percent of the vote overall, whatever reasonable assumptions you might make about turnout. Indeed, given the mood of the electorate, I would be very surprised if Rubio wound up with less than 36 or 37 percent of the vote, unless there were some major scandal (always possible) or he ran a terrible campaign (also possible).

In a three-way race, what this means is that Rubio is guaranteed at least second place. He could still lose if the race were Crist 37, Rubio 36, Meek 27, or Meek 37, Rubio 36, Crist 27, but you can't get more than one-third of the vote in a three-way race and do worse than second.

This is advantageous, since it means that nobody much will defect from you for strategic reasons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 29, 2010 5:16 AM
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