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Can Kendrick Meek win the Florida Senate race?



Kendrick Meek is the likely Democratic nominee in the Florida Senate race. AP Photo by Ed Reinke

The nationally televised debate between Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio on Sunday made clear that the Republican Senate primary is going to be a knockdown, drag-out brawl between now and, gulp, August 24.

The almost-certain political bloodbath on the Republican side stands in stark contrast to the quiet race for the Democratic nomination -- where Rep. Kendrick Meek seems to be on cruise control to become the party's nominee.

And yet, despite the body blows being exchanged on the Republican side, there is almost no chatter among smart Democratic operatives about Meek's chances of winning the race in November.

Why?

As often is the case in politics, it's all about the benjamins.

In conversations with Democratic strategists closely following the race, the biggest hurdle between Meek and inside-the-Beltway credibility is fundraising.

Meek -- with a major assist from former President Bill Clinton -- has been solid if not spectacular in the chase for campaign cash, having raised $4.6 million and ending 2009 with $3.3 million on hand.

The issue is that Meek has a FAR lower profile than either Crist, who is universally known in the state, or Rubio who will be universally known in the state (if he isn't already) by the end of the primary. By contrast, nearly six in ten Floridians didn't know enough about Meek to offer an opinion in a recent Research 2000 poll conducted for the liberal Daily Kos blog.

That means that Meek has to raise enough money to get up on the air -- no cheap proposition in a state the size of Florida -- early and begin to tell his story to voters before his Republican opponent has a chance to tell it for him.

(Meek's story is potentially compelling -- if he has the money to tell it. Prior to winning a Miami-area seat his mother held, Meek served as a state highway patrolman.)

What fundraising number does Meek need to get to? It's hard to know given that Republicans haven't picked their nominee yet but it's not much of a leap to see either Crist or Rubio raising and spending $20+ million as the nominee. Crist is the best non-incumbent fundraiser in the country and if Rubio wins he will be the darling of conservatives nationwide and, as a result, will be able to raise whatever he needs.

Assuming then that Meek will be outspent in the general election, the question is whether he can match the fundraising of Democrats who have recently run for Senate in Florida. In 2004, Betty Castor raised and spent almost $11.5 million for a race she lost to Mel Martinez; two years later, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) raised and spent $16 million in his crushing defeat of then Rep. Katherine Harris (R).

For Meek to be successful, he needs to get somewhere between those two numbers. It's unlikely that without the power of incumbency or the specter of "Senator Katherine Harris" that Meek can match Nelson's total. But, he must do better than Castor, who had been elected to statewide office prior to running, on the fundraising front to have a chance at winning.

The x-factor in the money conversation is whether the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will open its checkbook for Florida if polling shows that Meek can win. The DSCC's first priority will be in trying to defend their incumbents (Colorado, Nevada, Arkansas etc) and then the open seats they currently control (Indiana and Connecticut among others). It's tough to see that when all of those races are taken into consideration that there will be any significant chunk of money left for Meek.

If Meek can raise the money -- and that's a big if -- the history of Senate races in the Sunshine State should be encouraging for him -- and Democrats nationally. Since 1980, Democrats have won six Senate races in the state including three of the last four (Bob Graham in 1998, Nelson in 2000 and 2006).

And, polling suggests that Meek is within shouting distance -- particularly if, as expected, Rubio is the Republican nominee this fall.

The Research 2000 poll showed Rubio at 41 percent to 40 percent for Meek. A new Mason-Dixon Polling & Research poll showed a wider lead for the Republican with Rubio at 44 percent to Meek's 29 percent.

Overhanging the entire race is the possibility that Crist, if he sees no path to victory in the primary, would run as an independent in the general election. While Crist ruled out that possibility during his debate with Rubio on Sunday, we have been around politics long enough -- and talked to enough Florida operatives -- to be somewhat skeptical that the door has been totally shut.

The next three months will be critical to Meek's chances of pulling off an upset. How much can Meek bank between now and June? How nasty does the fight between Crist and Rubio get? And, least predictable of all, how does what looks to be a very tough political environment for Democrats in Florida change -- if at all?

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 29, 2010; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

JakeD2 :

What do you think will happen when the U.S. debt goes over 100% of GDP? That's going to happen under Obama, not GWB.

You mean like during WW II?

I think we won that one. Things were pretty good after that. But to say that Obama is responsible for the deficits is like saying the current government of Germany is responsible for murdering 14 million people during WW II. I am afraid the Republicans own this deficit, just as the Nazis own the murders.

Posted by: NewThoughts | March 31, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse


False charges of racism are ACTS OF RACISM AGAINST WHITES.

It is a sad commentary on what has gone on this week in this country.

It is CLEAR THAT THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS NOT MATURE ENOUGH TO HANDLE A BLACK AS A PRESIDENT.

If everytime Obama gets into political trouble, the subject quickly changes to racism - WITH FALSE CHARGES OF RACISM COMING FROM THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY MESSAGE MACHINE, this country is in trouble.

Even after the calls for restraint last week, editorials came out, and bloggers continued this UGLY CONFRONTATIONAL AND FALSE LINE OF ATTACK.


AGAIN - THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY DOES NOT APPEAR TO BE MATURE ENOUGH TO HANDLE HAVING A BLACK AS PRESIDENT.

False charges of racism are ACTS OF RACISM AGAINST WHITES.

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Posted by: 37thand0street | March 29, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

@leichtman1...how classy to call someone you don't know a racist...my election to Chair is a matter of public record. Also my many years of work and activism on behalf of Democrats & minorities and their issues are not consistant with racist belief systems. I also clearly indicated that I am a FORMER Chair, not a current Chair. It is my professional (10+ years in progressive employment/activism) opinion what I shared with Fix readers. Sorry you don't like my opinion that Dems in Florida are going down...keep giving your money to Florida Dems and I will watch it go down the drain. All the best!
Thank you to FairlingtonBlade for mentioning the truth about my background and my posting. Truth always wins out!

Posted by: bjchiszar | March 29, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I really struggle with Meek as a candidate. He has been handed his elected offices. His campaign has been lackluster. His years in the House of Representatives have revealed no spark for leadership, no particular agenda.

In all of Florida there was no Democrat better prepared to run for this seat?

Posted by: margaretmeyers | March 29, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

False charges of racism is an ACT of RACISM against whites.


This is exactly the charge against broadwayjoe and his friends here.


The amount of the HATE SPEECH and SEXUAL SLURS on this blog have been completely out of control.


We are not talking about one or two comments here.

At the very least broadwayjoe and crew are trying to SMEAR THE ACTIONS OF ENTIRE GROUP by the actions of one or two people -


and this is wrong -


Repeated attempts to tap down on this have been ignored.

What is worse, is that this RACISM against whites has political motivations -


These acts are NOT improving race relations in this country - rather these acts are setting BACK race relations, perhaps DECADES -

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Posted by: 37thand0street | March 29, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

"in case you have been asleep for the last 18 months, Hillary is SOS, and her Fla supporters have generally moved on and strongly support Obama.

"

no we don't.

obama has turned out to be the incapable idiot all talk no action kid we thought he was.

Congress got HCR passed, no thanks to Obama

Posted by: newagent99 | March 29, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

I know Meeks from more than a decade ago.
Smart he is not.
but he is honest, which beats Rubio.

Posted by: newagent99 | March 29, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

He faces an uphill climb. That being said, if Rubio gets the nod, many in The Florida Panhandle (read: South Alabama) may sit out the election rather than vote for a Catholic Hispanic, previous support for Martinez notwithstanding.

Posted by: fizzy1 | March 29, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

He might want to run some statewide ads showing himself as a common sense, no drama legislator and let the contrast between that and the chainsaw fight Crist and Rubio are firing up become obvious. As long as the R's are out after each other with edged weapons and land mines they probably haven't the funds to simultaneously open a second front against Meeks, and that could make him look infinitely preferable to the blood drenched survivor of the Republican Primaries.

Posted by: ceflynline | March 29, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

NewThoughts:

What do you think will happen when the U.S. debt goes over 100% of GDP? That's going to happen under Obama, not GWB.

http://www.data360.org/graph_group.aspx?Graph_Group_Id=32

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 29, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Meeks needs to make sure the voters of Florida understand what is at stake. The national Republican agenda is to end entitlements. Entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. They cut taxes, create a deficit then call for entitlement cuts. Quite simple, really.

Posted by: NewThoughts | March 29, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Meek has this (D) after his name, making him unelectable in 2010. He is a straight-forward liberal in a center-right state, in a year when the right is EXTREMELY motivated. Whether it's Rubio or Crist, Meek will lose by at least 10 points no matter how much money he can raise or spend.

Posted by: JBaustian | March 29, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I take Chiszar's comment as coming from someone with a serious beef with the D-Fl party leadership rather than a specific comment on Meek. There are a few interesting new voices in today's thread, no doubt CC's column got linked.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 29, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

in case you have been asleep for the last 18 months, Hillary is SOS, and her Fla supporters have generally moved on and strongly support Obama.

Posted by: leichtman1 | March 29, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

thanks for the heads up on this creep. his coming to this site and trashing D candidates is precisely why they claim that
"He has engaged in activities that injured the name and status of the Florida Democratic Party.

Fla seems like Texas to have become much like deep southern states, likely by the Ga influence in Jacksonville and the Alabama influence on the Pennsicola voters.

curious if others here feel that Rubio may yet implode when his radical views are exposed to Fla voters.

Posted by: leichtman1 | March 29, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to imagine a Black man winning a statewide race in this particular redneck and politically backward State. Then again, Obama carried the state in 2008. Mr. Meek is an attractive, moderate politician, Unlike Crist and Rubio, who are clearly interested only in themselves. I wish him well, but I would not bet any serious money on him.

Posted by: sameolddoc | March 29, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

thanks for the heads up on this creep. his coming to this site and trashing D candidates is precisely why they claim that
"He has engaged in activities that injured the name and status of the Florida Democratic Party.

Fla seems like Texas to have become much like deep southern states, likely by the Ga influence in Jacksonville and the Alabama influence on the Pennsicola voters.

curious if others here feel that Rubio may yet implode when his radical views are exposed to Fla voters.

Posted by: leichtman1 | March 29, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Meek is Florida's most ethically challenged congressman. He and his mother (now a lobbyist) are both at the center of two financial scandals in Miami-Dade County, the Poinciana Park Development scandal and the Wackenhut phantom billing scandal. You be sure those scandals will appear in attack ads come the fall. Also, Meek can't count on help from Obama since he was a Hillary Clinton stalwart in the presidential primaries right to the end.

Posted by: agiantman | March 29, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

The meek shall inherit the earth. The question is, can the meek afford the property taxes?

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | March 29, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

@leichtman - Actually, BJ Chiszar appears to be a controversial figure in FL politics. Assuming that this is the same person, he just lost his position in a rather nasty intra-party fight. I would also note that I didn't detect references to Meek's race in the comment.

http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2009/11/karen-thurman-ousts-miamidade-dec-chairman.html

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 29, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

is that something you are once again repeating from faux news? waiting to see it spammed.

Posted by: leichtman1 | March 29, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse


Obama's people are messing up the census.

How in the world are they supposed to be able to run a 3 Trillion dollar health care program when they can't handle a simple count from one to 300 million ???


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Posted by: 37thand0street | March 29, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

heard Meek talk about Rubio wanting to rolling back SS on Morning Joe today. Meek knows Fla politics unfortunaely he doesn t have enough Fla name recognition.

Ryan has told Chris Matthews previously of his plans to phase out SS. What is staggering is that the DNC knowing they are struggling with seniors right now haven't started hammering Ryan and Rubio in Fla and Arizona and tagging the GOP as the party that wants to end SS and Medicare. I am still not convinced of Rubio's invincible nomination and understand that he still has plenty of time b/w now and their Aug primary to self destruct. Never put it past the GOP to snatch a loss from the jaws of certain victory. Does anyone remember the inevitable victory that Guiliani claimed he would have in the Fla primary.

Posted by: leichtman1 | March 29, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

"Chris Wallace: Would you change cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security?

Rubio: "I think all of that has to be on the table, including the way we index increases in cost of living. All of these issues have to be on the table. They have to be options that I would be open to. They are included in the Ryan roadmap. I think it's the right approach to Social Security reform."

The 'Ryan roadmap' essentially phases out Social Security. Are Crist and Meek smart enough to capitalize on this in FLA, where retired folks come out to vote in greater numbers than probably any other group?

Posted by: drindl | March 29, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Hey leichtman -- probably a concern troll.

bsimon,

'The whole sentence says that the same rules will apply to both: Rubio will attract donors as the newest conservative poster child. Meek will attract donors to keep the newest conservative poster child out of office.'

While I agree with this, there is much heavier money in corporate than in private donors, and corporate will go to Rubio.

Posted by: drindl | March 29, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Meek can win even if Crist drops out of the Republican primary and runs as an independent. Rubio is not on cruise control anymore to win the Republican nomination, either. In the most recent poll Rubio was up 48%-37% against Crist. Now, that's in stark contrast from earlier this month. Rubio lead 58%-30% over Crist, so a 48%-37% matchup is a good change for Crist. Also needed to be considered is the fact that Rubio has $2.9 million on hand while Crist has $7.9 million on hand. Rubio has touted his endorsements: Club for Growth, Jim DeMint and Mike Huckabee while Crist has yet to really tout his endorsements: John McCain, Mitch McConnell, Lamar Alexander and the NRSC. Crist is also a favorite of gun owners rights and should get props there for the work he's done for them in Florida and win props for his announcement against Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court. He did support the stimulus and that will be a problem, but he's not making it worse by flip-flopping on the issue. He's defending it as making a tough choice for the good of the Florida economy and say's it saved 87,000 jobs in Florida. Good for him. I get so tired of these politicians flip-flopping on issues and it's nice to see someone stand for their view and give reasons why they made the choices they made. Crist is also turning the election into an issue of trust and transperancy: saying Rubio is dishonest about using party money to benefit himself and his family. Crist is painting Rubio as a typical politician using public service as a way to get ahead for himself while he (Crist) uses public service to really serve the people of Florida. It's going to be a tough primary and the winner will certainly beat Kendrick Meek. Does Meek have a shot to win? No.

Posted by: reason5 | March 29, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Meek is as dumb as a box of rocks. He is a "graduate" of Florida A&M which is the equivalent of graduating from the Adult Learning Center.

Posted by: bacala1 | March 29, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Hey BJ Chiszar, I don t believe a word you posted, especially your claim to be chairman of the Miami-Dade D party. You are either a racist or a R shill or both. No so called party chair would come to a public blog site and post the stupidity in your post.
While D chances in Fla are limited, no one affiliated with the D Party would post, in a sinister way that all of their candidates will certainly loose, and that you know that, unless they are working for the opposition. I have volunteered and sent contributions to Fla D candidates in the past, and won t ever again do that again if they have idots(and that is being generous)like you represening the Fla D Party. How absolutely irresponsible of you.

Posted by: leichtman1 | March 29, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Anybody but that crazy Rubio! He was a total doofus on that mini-debate on Faux News yesterday.
How can people be so misled?
Oh wait - they voted for Bush twice!

Posted by: angie12106 | March 29, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Important item (intentionally?) left out - Crist has until the end of April to declare as an indie candidate - well before the primary.

Plus Rasmussen's latest poll "shows Rubio earning 45% of the vote to likely Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek's 25%, with Crist in third at 22%" as an indie.
http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections2/election_2010/election_2010_senate_elections/florida/election_2010_florida_republican_primary_for_senate

Rubio wins the GOP vote plus the indie vote that sees Crist as just another Dem/Lib.

Posted by: smarkusvv | March 29, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

The major issue is --Can an African American win a stste wide race in Florida?
Not to long ago Blacks could not be caught in Miami Beach after dark. In the seventies Miami was the scene of many police confrontations with the Black populus of Liberty City and Overton.
Yhe 200 Presidental Election was so contenscious with many claiming that their votes, particually in Miami Dade and Valucia Counties were not counted. Rep Carrie Meek does not have the name recogition that could sweep him into victory.
His only hope is if the moderate Florida are so repulsed by the far right Rubio that they turn to Meed in a backlash.

Posted by: Carprin | March 29, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

They say Ken Meek shall inherit. You know the Book doesn't lie.

Posted by: Bondosan | March 29, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

As the former ELECTED Chairman of Miami-Dade Democratic Party, I am writing to inform the FIX and Fixistas that Florida is not in play statewide in 2010 (or 2012) in either Senate and/or Governor/Presidential races. The State Party is a corrupt joke. The DNC is presided over by a man whom lost his home state successor race by 18 points in an off year. Meek is just that...a MEEK candidate and CFO Alex Sink will do just that...SINK the entire ticket in 2010. Meek/Sink ticket will be a disaster. Fmr Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre would be a better choice for US Senate and Anthony KENNEDY Shriver, the founder of Best Buddies Intl would be better candidate for Governor! Double digit defeats are coming for Dems in Florida and probably everywhere else! Predicted here- today!Happy Passover and Easter!
BJ Chiszar

Posted by: bjchiszar | March 29, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how much credence I should give to the comments of people who don't know how Kendrick Meek's name is spelled.

Posted by: lowercaselarry | March 29, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

drindl writes
""It seems a strange premise for the Fix to argue that Rubio will/would have access to unlimited dollars"

Not at all."


You quoted selectively. The whole sentence says that the same rules will apply to both: Rubio will attract donors as the newest conservative poster child. Meek will attract donors to keep the newest conservative poster child out of office. In '08, Tinklenberg was a terrible fundraiser, until Bachmann called the President anti-American, which opened the floodgates for Tink. Meek may benefit from the same phenomenon.

Posted by: bsimon1 | March 29, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

"It seems a strange premise for the Fix to argue that Rubio will/would have access to unlimited dollars"

Not at all. Rubio [or his handlers] want to dismantle regulatory strucures. Think of 'Citizens United' and how much corporate [and wealthy winger] money will flow to him.

He will win the primary.

Posted by: drindl | March 29, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

For full video of the Rubio, Crist debate and for more on the ground coverage, please visit saintpetersblog.com or battleground.com.

Posted by: saintpetersblog | March 29, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Meeks's problem isn't money. His problem is that he's reliably liberal in a decidedly diverse state ideologically. Graham and Nelson are not good indicators of Meeks's chances, since both of them were/are pretty moderate figures. Meeks isn't. He has rarely strayed from the strongly liberal platform of the CBC, and that will come back to haunt him everywhere in Florida except the SE corner. His only chance is if Crist loses the primary, runs as an indy, and/or Rubio has a meltdown. Anyone who wants to win a statewide race in Florida these days has to be able to talk persuasively about jobs, private investment, the foreclosure crisis and reviving tourism. Thus far, Meeks has very little to say about any of these things, except 'more govt'. That'll win you mayor of Miami or West Palm, but it won't get you a ticket to the Senate.

Posted by: mbcnewspaper | March 29, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

That new Mason-Dixon poll has very bad numbers for Democrats across the board, not just Meeks. Even long-term, it would stand to reason that Obama's 2012 strategy may not be able to bank on the Sunshine State anymore. Seniors don't like the health care plan and vote in great numbers in Florida. And there are also a lot of Jewish voters in Florida who might not be pleased with Obama's somewhat hawkish stance toward Israeli settlements.

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 29, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Anyone have a link to a detailed bio of Meek?
His law enforcement career/record will be dissected, that is for sure. Money won't be a problem unless the DSCC/DNC is crazy.

Posted by: shrink2 | March 29, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

It seems a strange premise for the Fix to argue that Rubio will/would have access to unlimited dollars but that Meek will have to contend with other Dem candidates for a share of the pie. Won't Rubio have the same problem - competing for cash nationwide in a year when the Repubs think they have a shot at so many seats? And likewise for Meek, if polling looks good - or Rubio says something ridiculous like Rep Bachmann does - won't that raise the profile of the race, drawing from donors nationwide (a la El Tinklenberg v Bachmann in 08)?

Quite frankly, given that Rubio v Crist is getting all the attention & Meek has limited name-recognition statewide, the race seems remarkably close; i.e. Meek absolutely has a chance to win, particularly against Rubio.

Posted by: bsimon1 | March 29, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Meek needs to get out there now -- and position himself as the guy who gets things done for FLA, who is the candidate of the people of the state, not the puppet of a group of out of state corporated and idelogical thugs.

Posted by: drindl | March 29, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Chris,

This could get very interesting indeed. If Rubio and Crist bloody each other--and if Crist, as you so cynically and correctly pointed out, were to 'do a Lieberman', it would split the vote enough for for Meek to pull off a win.

The D.s can't be so naive as to neglect the FL Senate race. Not only will $$ pour in, but the heavy-hitting campaigners will, too.

Posted by: sverigegrabb | March 29, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Meek is a simple Mama Boy from an all black congressional district....he inherited his seat.

He is also a pitiful public speaker.

Rubio will wipe him out in the state wide general election.....even democrats will not vote for Meek....

forget it....the dems may as well write off this contest.

Posted by: SofaKingCool2009 | March 29, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

vmrg1974,
I agree that he should hit the I-4 corrider first, but I think there is enought of a black vote in Northern FL to make it well worth his wild to campaign in places like Jacksonville. Either way he should get on the airwaves in Orlando and Tampa in the next two weeks with a nice personal story and then him at the end saying something like "are you tired of politics as usual then go to my website/vote for me" type of message.

Posted by: AndyR3 | March 29, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Agree with AndyR3.

The guys isnt spending a lot of $ now, so he can save it up for the general election. Since he's a Rep from Miami, he probably doenst need to spend too much $ in So. Fla.

As always, most elections in FL hinge on the I-4 corridor that runs from Tampa on the west coast to Daytona Beach in the east.

No point in campaigning much north of I-4, since those areas are solidly Republican.

Posted by: vmrg1974 | March 29, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"How nasty does the fight between Crist and Rubio get?"

How nasty CAN it get is how nasty it will get.

Posted by: drindl | March 29, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I think Meeks should start putting his message out there now. As he increases his profile and his name recognition his poll numbers will start to rise which will get him more exposure and more access to the big money donors of the Democratic Party. Plus now is the time to start making the argument that you are a real alternative for the folks who may tune out the GOP because of the heated rhetoric being thrown around between Crist and Rubio.

Posted by: AndyR3 | March 29, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Muy interesante.

Posted by: JakeD3 | March 29, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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