Thank God for Kendrick Meek is all I can say. If the Dems had recruited a top-tier candidate in Florida, the Crist-Rubio revenge drama would have already thrown away a Senate seat that ought to be an easy Republican hold. As is, things will be difficult enough.
The Crist-Rubio contest is a tough one for modern-minded Republicans. As Eli Lehrer has noted here, Crist is no paragon of good government. On the other hand, what has got Crist in trouble is not his beach-house bailout, but his willingness to cut a deal with the feds to rescue his state finances – kind of a governor’s job. It’s unnerving too that it is so hard to predict how Crist would behave as a U.S. senator. With Rubio, you have a more certain idea of what you’ll get.
But here’s where I come down: The center right has got to hold together. We cannot afford more NY-23s. In all but the most extreme circumstances, the rule has to be that those who participate in a party contest abide by the results of that process. It’s one thing if the race is Lieberman v. Lamont, and what’s at issue is success or failure in war. I used that comparison in a tweet today, but it does not stand up to scrutiny: the differences between Crist and Rubio are much more differences in tone, temperament, and personality. Had Crist prevailed in the Florida Republican primary, he would have had every valid reason to expect Rubio to support the outcome. The reverse should have held true.
Crist continues to lead the polls. I expect that lead to fade as Republicans rally to Rubio and independents question the grounds for Crist’s candidacy. I hope that translates into a Rubio win, but I worry that a Rubio candidacy will be a tougher and harder fight than a Crist candidacy would have been: I don’t share the view that the conservative future belongs to Rubio’s hard-edged style of politics, especially not in a state like Florida. But all that is past helping. The GOP nomination race has a presumptive winner and Republicans of all stripes have a new standard-bearer.