The Republican primary for the Senate is on. Marco Rubio, thanks to the support of teabaggers, has pulled even in his race with Charlie Crist to be the Republican nominee according to Rasmussen Reports. Side note about Rasmusses--it's a partisan outfit who polls Democrats low, but I have no idea if he's polling this Republican race straight or not. When they're running legit polls, they're good, as is shown by their performance around every election. But otherwise? No clue.

The NY Times is running a longish piece on the Crist-Rubio race in this week's Magazine. If you've been following the race, there's not much new here, but if you haven't, it's an easy way to catch up. For me, the race is only mildly interesting, because I wouldn't vote for either of them if you paid me. Kendrick Meek's my guy in November, which should be no great surprise. But I can't help myself when it comes to gaming this sort of stuff out--who, if anyone, should I pull for in the Republican primary? Even though it goes against conventional wisdom, I think my answer is Charlie Crist, and the reason is embedded in that NY Times article.

It's an article of faith that Meek can't beat Crist straight up for the Senate, and I agree. Crist is a moderate on enough issues that he'll pull independent voters to his side in any one-on-one matchup. And there's no question that Meek would have a far better shot one-on-one against Marco Rubio--Rubio is not a moderate, and his most vocal supporters are, to be kind, our of their damn minds. They could damage him incredibly with independents, and that could lead to Florida becoming one of the Democrats' hopeful spots in what's looking to be a rough midterm election cycle.

But it's not a given that Meek would beat Rubio straight up. Like I said, I like his chances better than against Crist in an identical situation, but it's not a sure thing, if only because Florida voters are, often, out of their damn minds on the whole. So why root for Crist in the primary?

A couple of reasons. One, he really is a moderate, and if he replaced Mel Martinez it wouldn't be the worst possible outcome in the Senate. Marco Rubio's hero in the Senate is Jim DeMint of South Carolina, after all. But second--and more importantly--if Crist wins the primary, I don't think we'll see a one-on-one matchup. The official Tea Party word is that even if it "nominated its own candidate, it would ask him to quit if it appeared that he were helping Meek," but that won't stop angry Tea Party members from writing in Rubio's name or just staying home. The rhetoric coming out of the tea party side of the movement is that of schism with the Republicans, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if this stayed a three person race after the primary. And Meek can certainly win that sort of race.

So if these are my options looking at the Republican primary: the potential of a three-way race with the Republicans split, or a two way race against a hard conservative that is by no means a sure thing and could result in a Tea Party Senator, then I have to hope for the first option, because that gives the best chance for the outcome I most want, and the smallest chance for the option I least want, which is Senator Marco Rubio.

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