There are going to be a lot of races this year where a Republican leaning third party candidate would do Democrats a lot of good. The Florida Senate race is not going to be one of them. If Charlie Crist's independent run has any impact on Kendrick Meek's chances of winning it's likely to be negative. Here are three reasons why:
-In a hypothetical three way contest last month we found Crist winning 32% of Obama voters but only 22% of McCain voters. Even before making his departure from the Republican Party a reality he was pulling more from likely Meek voters than likely Rubio voters.
-The level of support Crist starts out with from Republicans is likely to decline over the next six months. On our recent poll Crist had 18% of the GOP vote in a three way contest. 18% is the share of the Republican vote Arlen Specter got against Pat Toomey on a Quinnipiac poll immediately after his party shift. A year later he's now getting just 9% of the GOP vote. Crist seems likely to experience a similar erosion in his Republican support as the year progresses.
-45% of Democratic voters have a favorable opinion of Crist while only 29% have a favorable opinion of Meek. Compare that to 52% of Republicans with a favorable opinion of Rubio and 28% with a favorable one of Crist. If Crist is more popular with the Democrats than their candidate and less popular with the Republicans than their candidate it stands to reason he'll pull more of the Democratic vote long term. Maybe that will change down the road once Meek becomes better known but for now it's good for Crist.
Republicans are going to be angry at Crist for leaving the GOP, but it may actually be the best thing he's done for the party in months. It should help Marco Rubio's chances of getting to the Senate.