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.
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. To read the rest of the story, click here.