Conventional wisdom is a lot of things, but one thing is for certain, it is often wrong in the long run.
Here are my two favorites from the last year:
- Charlie Crist is unstoppable, regardless of what he runs for (this one dates back to 2006).
- Start measuring the drapes Bill McCollum. You are the next Florida Governor.
It seems the latest CW de’jour is Kendrick Meek is done, toast, finished, and like most CW, this one is grounded in virtually no fact.
In most polling leading up to the Charlie Crist switch-a-roo, in head to head polls, Meek would land in the high 20’s to low 30’s, essentially the baseline Democratic vote, roughly the same you would find if you put me in those head to heads. Why? On a statewide basis, he is a relative unknown. This isn’t his fault, Florida is an exceedingly hard place to earn name ID and when you do have it, it can be fleeting.
Alas, Crist makes the switch and all of the sudden, Meek finds himself in the mid-teens. The last poll, done by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, has the race at 41 Crist, 30 Rubio, 14 Meek.
But from where I sit, nothing much has changed.
Crist has always had high favorable that crossed partisan lines. He also has universal name ID, a rarity in Florida that is likely only shared by Jeb Bush (not even Bill Nelson or five time statewide winner Bob Graham can claim it). And unlike Crist, neither of his general election opponents, Marco Rubio or Kendrick Meek have anything near it. Hence the polling. It is all about him having real name ID, while his opponents do not.
However, that will change. While the press has been writing him off, Meek has slowly been building up a healthy war chest, one that will allow him to run a healthy paid media effort during his primary. And as Meek’s name ID increases and voters become more comfortable with his story, so will his polling numbers.
In some ways, Meek’s bigger challenge isn’t the general, its getting out of his primary. While part of me thinks it requires a certain suspension of reality to see Democratic voters select Jeff Greene, you can never count out a billionaire who clearly isn’t afraid to spend it. But unlike the GOP primary, where voters seem to be actively looking for an alternative to Bill McCollum, Democratic voters don’t know Meek—yet. But they will soon.
Assuming Meek can win his primary, which I think he will, the real fun begins. If Meek is able to spend 4-6 million in his primary, he will likely emerge with 50-60% statewide name ID, and more importantly, higher numbers among Democrats. That higher name ID will almost certainly lead to much more interesting three-way match-ups between Meek, Crist and Rubio, which will lead to more fundraising and more TV.
I do believe that right now, there are Democrats who are rallying around Crist because they know him, but as I’ve written about here before, Crist’s support has never been more than an inch thick. And as Meek grows in stature, that support will peel away.
It is a long ways between today and August 24th and even further until November, which is why no one should write anyone off yet, and definitely not Kendrick Meek.