Right now, there are two parlor games dominating the political discussions in the salons of DC, Adams Street in Tallahassee and Datz Deli in Tampa:
1. Depending on whether you support Charlie Crist or Marco Rubio, which Democrat, Jeff Greene or Kendrick Meek do you want to join the general election triumvirate?
2. Who had a better Spring: Marco Rubio and his record-setting $4.5 million or Charlie Crist and his workmanlike fundraising, impressive cash-on-hand and his unending earned media?
Answering the first question is almost as difficult to explain as the plot to Inception because the answer really depends on the perspective of who is asking. Does Crist want Meek, who has never polled above 25% in a three-way survey, in the general, thereby leaving open much of the Democratic vote? Or does Crist want to face Greene, because without Meek, Crist can win much of the African-American vote, even if Greene’s checkbook is the biggest wildcard of the race.
And so on.
So let’s focus on the second question: who had the kind of Spring that will matter in the Fall? Crist or Rubio?
Rubio’s supporters will tell you that they are thrilled, hell downright ecstatic, with the Republican’s fundraising efforts, that Marco will, with his own campaign’s money and the support of the national party, be able to pick off enough of Crist’s remaining GOP supporters that Rubio will get to 37%-39% in the polls. Rubio’s proponents will also tell you that they are able to bide their time until September and October, while Crist will have to work overtime to build a statewide organization to mobilize elusive independent voters.
As impressive as raising $4.5 million may be, I still think I’d rather be in Crist’s shoes at this point. His fundraising effort during the last quarter was exactly what it was suppose to be: less than Rubio”s but more than Meek’s. And if Michelle Todd and Co. can spin fast enough that the story should be about how much money each candidate has left on hand, than all the better for Crist.
But the real value for Crist has been the earned media he has received during the last three months. Crist has been omnipresent, whether it be with his vetoes of SB6 or HB 1143 or the governor’s leadership over the oil spill crisis.
Simply put, how much would this omnipresence cost if Crist had had to pay for this kind of coverage he has received during the Spring and early Summer: $10 million? $20 million? More? How many times has Crist appeared on some local TV station’s newcast? Dozens of times? Hundreds? More?
Crist has been on television so much, you’ll forgive me if I mistook him for an NBA free agent.
Believe it or not, time, or the lack thereof, is becoming Marco Rubio’s greatest enemy. If Crist can keep the earned media coming through Labor Day, then the $8 or $9 million he will still have left on hand may be enough to cover him through November. Rubio’s best shot would be to launch an elaborate offensive against Crist now, forcing him to spend down some of his cash reserves. Rubio needs to engage in some asymmetrical, counter-intuitive attacks on Crist. More to the point, Rubio needs to portray that hunger and enthusiasm we saw late last year.
Otherwise, Crist’s strong efforts during the Spring and Summer will be seen as how he won in the Fall.