Saturday, June 05, 2010


News that a major Democratic consultant firm has gotten on board with Charlie Crist is raising some very pointed questions about the White House hedging their bets over whether Dem Rep. Kendrick Meek has any shot at winning Florida's senate seat in the three-way race there.
SKDKnickerbocker, a leading Democratic political strategy and communications firm, has agreed to work on Crist's up-hill campaign as an independent for the U.S. Senate.

The decision will be widely viewed as a slap at Democratic frontrunner Rep. Kendrick Meek, who is trailing badly in the polls and many Democrats believe is hopeless for winning in November.

Making it all the more ominous for Meek is that SKDKnickerbocker is helmed by Anita Dunn, who most recently served as senior advisor to President Obama and is one of the administration's most valued political operators outside the White House.

One Democrat familiar with the situation tamped down the notion that Democrats and the White House are walking away from Meek pointing out that N.Y. strategist Josh Isay, and not Dunn, will be working on the campaign.

But said another Democrat: "They never would have signed on to the Crist campaign unless it was okay at the highest levels."
And that's true.  Why help Crist at all unless you believe that he has a better shot than the Democrat already in the race?  On the other hand, both Crist and Marco Rubio have serious corruption scandals to deal with.
Wednesday’s arrest of Florida’s former state Republican Party chairman is the latest incident that could tip the scales in the state’s three-way race for the Senate.

A longtime friend and ally of Gov. Charlie Crist, former state GOP chairman Jim Greer was arrested at his Oviedo home on six felony charges connected to a money-laundering scheme during his four-year stint as chairman.

Given Greer’s closeness with Crist, some believe the case is more likely to hurt Crist than former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, the anointed GOP candidate. Crist has left the GOP and is running for the seat as an independent.

Rubio, however, faces a reported IRS investigation into charges he used a state GOP credit card for personal expenses. Possibly also damaging, Rubio led the state House of Representatives at the same time that his Appropriations Committee chairman, former state Rep. Ray Sansom (R), is alleged to have engaged in an illegal appropriations scheme with a Northwest Florida college. Sansom later stepped down as House speaker and faces third-degree felony conspiracy charges in a trial that could prove embarrassing for Rubio.

The only Senate candidate untouched by any of the scandals: Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democratic nominee.
Backing Crist right now over Meek, especially given Jim Greer's arrest, is not a smart play.  It smacks of bailing Crist out with a major political consultancy firm with White House clout right as Crist faces questions over his relationship with Greer.  Why not back Meek here instead and go on the attack against both Crist and Rubio?

I don't like this one bit.  Meek doesn't have the greatest progressive record but for God's sakes he'd be better than Crist or Rubio in the Senate.

What's the White House's play here, and why are they helping Crist in a situation where they should be kicking him when he's down (no offense folks, but the point of elections is to win.)  What has Crist promised the White House should he win, and why are they cutting Meek off?

This smells funny.

[UPDATEBooMan gives a decent counterargument:
I'd be mad about that except that Meek is so far showing nothing to make me believe he has a chance. I am not a particularly big fan of Meek, and even though I'd rather have him serve in the Senate than Charlie Crist, the White House is actually doing something smart here. Rather than alienating Crist by going all-in with a long-shot candidate, they're working two sides of the aisle. Meek will still get the help of the DNC, the DSCC, Bill Clinton, and maybe even Obama. But, simultaneously, they're helping Crist because they see him as the likely winner and they really want him to caucus with the Democrats. If he does, that will be a pickup for the Dems, and it will offset the certain loss of Byron Dorgan's North Dakota seat. If the Dems can pick up the currently Republican-held Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, and New Hampshire seats, they'd be up five and the Republicans would be hard-pressed to even break even on election night. We've seen how important 60 votes are. So, I actually have to applaud this power move on the White House's part. 
If the White House is doing this because they believe 60 Dem votes in the Senate is in play in 2010, it's a smart move.  Conventional wisdom is that the Dems will lose half a dozen seats in the Senate overall.  If BooMan's right, then yes, this is a smart move.  If the conventional wisdom is right, then the resources going to Crist may have been better spent elsewhere.  We'll see.

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