Florida's senatorial race draws together a interesting set of issues and alignments. Leading the race is Marco Rubio, a 39 year-old, staunchly conservative family man of Cuban ancestry. He was polling so far ahead in the Republican primary that Gov. Charlie Crist dropped out and is now running as an independent. Rubio leads Crist 40% to 28%. I almost forgot to mention that there is a Democrat in the race. He's Representative Kendrick Meek, who is giving up a safe seat in Congress to make this unlikely bid. He stands at 23%, with Crist siphoning off Meek's support. Meek, a black Congressman from Miami, is considered weak in comparison to Crist. Rather than the Republican vote being split, with the Democrat being the beneficiary, the centrist and better-known Crist has pulled away traditional Democrat support.
The surge toward Crist may be peaking, as Rubio and Crist have skewered each other with harshly negative ads. Crossover support for Crist shows signs of weakening, but there is no guaranty that Meek will benefit from it. Despite the sponsorship of party headliners, like Biden and Obama, Meek's candidacy has failed to take off. Meek's message is folksy. He shows us that he's worked to save the Everglades, stop offshore drilling - before and after BP - and is for the people "who take the early bus." Nice and light-hearted. It doesn't say Senator; it says Congressman.
Crist leads with an attack on Rubio, chargin him with using party credit cards for personal use. Crist should know. He's been accused of inappropriately spending government funds on private matters. He then goes after Meek, who was accused of seeking federal funds for a development project, in which the developer paid $90,000 to former Congresswoman Carrie Meeks, the candidate's mother, as a consultant and leased her a Cadillac Escalade. The developer, Dennis Stackhouse, abandoned the project and is charged with stealing $1 million. And you thought Florida was just a pretty place to retire.
Which brings us back to Rubio. He's telegenic, earnest and relatively soft-spoken. His theme is: Preserve America's Values for Our Children's Generation. His website features a picture of his family of six, four members of which are too young to vote for Middle School class officers. Aside from the rhetorical positions on non-voting issues, Rubio's strongest positions are on government (too big, too powerful) and spending (too much). He opposes the health care act and tax increases-he would repeal capital gains and reduce estate taxes. He opposes changes in energy policy, including cap and trade - even if these policies were neutral for budgetary purposes. He favors a balanced budget and reduced spending. In short,no surprises here: a classic conservative profile, all the way down to school vouchers. He would leave health care to the free market, and he has offered no plan for providing health care to those priced out of that market. He strongly opposes amnesty of any kind to illegal immigrants.
Florida has been crucial in most national elections because it is a swing state. A credible candidate running to Rubio's left might pick up most of the 51% which Crist and Meek share. But that will not happen. The race will go to Rubio.