I've gotten a fair number of emails and calls today on my blog post saying that Crist won't win, mostly from Democrats who hope that I am wrong because they see Crist as the best chance to beat Rubio. Several of them wanted to know how I saw Meek winning, which if you read the post, isn't the point. Even the Weekly Standard had a take. Trust me, I didn't see that one coming.
Nonetheless, the chatter made it clear the Crist theory needed more explanation. So let me delve a little more into the numbers.
Going back to the basic math to win for Crist: win roughly 1/3 of the partisan vote and 50% of the NPA. First, there is one big assumption there, that Crist will get 50% of the NPA vote. Some suggest more, many more suggested he will get less. For this exercise,we have to start somewhere. Quite frankly, if he doesn't get 50%, the whole conversation is purely academic.
Nonetheless, under that assumption and the model that a few more Dems vote on election day, which given the Dems six point registration advantage, is likely, Crist wins by a few points. But here is problem one: Who really thinks Crist will get 33% of the GOP vote? Not this observer.
Looking more into the math, and again, assuming that Crist gets 50% of the NPA vote, which in a three way race is far from a sure thing, here is what he would need to get from R's and D's to get a plurality of vote. This is all built off a 42-41-17 R-D-NPA election day model:
If 33% of GOP vote for him, he needs about the same in Dem vote.
If 25% of GOP votes for him, he needs 41% of the Dem vote (by less than a point).
If 20% of GOP votes for him, he needs 50% of the Dem vote to win (by four-tenths).
If 18% of GOP votes for him, he needs 53% of the Dem vote to win (by two-tenths).
If 15% of GOP votes for him, he needs 59% of Dem vote to win (by three-tenths).
All of this assumes that in this kind of race, Meek would get 5% of Republicans. In fairness, I think there is a better chance that Rubio gets 5% of Dems than Meek gets 5% of Republicans. It also assumes that NPA breaks evenly between Meek and Rubio.
The problem for Crist is every Republican who goes from Crist to Rubio costs Crist more than he gains the other way around. Why? Because when Rubio takes a vote away GOP vote, it goes right to Rubio, while when Crist takes a vote from the Dems, it comes from Meek's total, not from Rubio's. Make sense?
Could Democrats leave en masse for Crist? Sure, they could. Will they? Well, lets play that one out.
First of all, if we assume (and I think this is a fair assumption since Davis got 81%), that Meek will get at least 75% of the African American/Caribbean vote, which makes up roughly 13-14% of the likely total statewide turnout, that alone gets him to roughly 10 points statewide, virtually all out of the Democratic column. So if we work off the scenario that Crist gets 25% of the GOP vote, which is hardly a sure thing, Crist needs to get 41% of the Democratic vote. Should Meek get 75% of the African American/Caribbean vote, Crist would need 55-56% of the remaining white and Hispanic Democratic vote. If he gets Davis or better numbers, the Crist number gets even higher.
How does Crist do that? Theory One is he announces he is caucusing with the Democrats. That may win him some votes, but some Democrats will see it as pandering and stick with Meek. Who else will see it as pandering: Republicans and Independents. If Crist says he is with the Democrats, will he still get 25% of Republicans or half of the Independents, especially in this cycle when voters are rejecting typical politics? Highly unlikely.
In addition, one other factor will come into play: the hardening of partisanship. Elections always narrow because partisans come home closer to election day, which is why in Florida, winning the NPA vote in a two way statewide or close district-level race is vital for winning. In a two-way race, that pushes both candidates to the middle, but in a three-way race, it hurts the one in the middle. If Crist doesn't get close to a third of the total partisan vote, he will lose, plain and simple, and there is definitely a scenario where that happens. For example, if he only gets 25% of the two party vote, he would need to get 70% of the NPA vote to get to 34%, which probably won't be enough to win. Even at 70% of the NPA vote, he'd still needs 29-30% of the two party vote to get to a reasonable win number.
I am the first to admit that Meek's road isn't an easy one, despite my hope and support for him. But as the numbers support, Crist just isn't going to get there without some dramatic change of events, which leads me back to the point in my original post: that Kendrick Meek is the best chance for Democrats who want to beat Rubio, because the votes aren't there for Crist.
You know who else I think knows this? Governor Crist, which explains why he is all over the place on issues. Confident candidates stay on message, while less confident candidates scramble around to find solid ground. Is there any question that Crist is scrambling.
Now you ask, can Kendrick Meek win?
Go back to the original Election Day turnout scenario, with Crist winning NPA voters with 50% and Meek/Rubio split the rest. They each get 80% of their party vote, because Democrats come home understanding that Meek is the best chance. What happens then? Meek wins 40-39-21. Sure he can win. Will he win? That is another question.
Yes, I personally want to see Meek win. I've supported him for some time and was pretty vocal for him during the primary. But trust me, that is a separate discussion from "Can Charlie Win?," which is the question everyone is asking. All bias aside, I don't see it happening. Clearly, a lot has to happen between now and then for Meek, namely, Meek needs to raise a ton of money (though remember, he did throttle a billionaire primary opponent who outspent him 7:1).
People keep asking "But isn't a better strategy for Democrats to vote for Crist?" First, I don't think voters are that 'processey.' Secondly, the 'rally around Crist' theory also assumes that the several million or so Democrats likely to vote in November are monolithic. Trust me, they aren't.
If Jeff Greene had won the primary, I'd be writing a very different post. But Greene didn't, by a long shot.
Simply, I don't see as many as half of Democrats statewide abandoning Kendrick Meek and voting for Charlie Crist, especially with both President Clinton and Obama supporting him, institutional Democrats rallying around him and the vast majority of Democratic electeds remaining firmly in his camp, which is why the time to come to embrace reality and for Democrats to help Meek. Otherwise, Marco will remain firmly in the driver's seat, which is where he sits today.