Nelson Predicts Crist-Meek Matchup in November

Posted May 6, 2010 at 3:50pm

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) on Thursday predicted the three-way race for Senate in the Sunshine State would boil down to a contest between Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) and Gov. Charlie Crist, who last week defected from the GOP to run as an Independent.

Nelson speculated that the presumptive Republican nominee, former state Speaker Marco Rubio, would fade down the stretch. But Nelson acknowledged that it remains unclear if Crist, without the backing of a major political party, will be able to compete with Rubio’s voter turnout operation, sure to be bolstered by the Florida GOP.

“I think it will be a jump ball between Charlie and Kendrick,” Nelson said. “I think that Rubio comes from a narrow base point of view and that Kendrick and Charlie will move more into larger bases — Kendrick will. And, Charlie will have — he’ll be gaining both Republicans, some independents and he will be going after some Democrats as well. How it breaks out is yet to be seen. But, I do believe that when Kendrick gets known, that the two horses will be those two.”

Rubio had been leading Crist among GOP voters before the governor dropped out of the GOP primary to run under the “No Party Affiliation” banner. Public opinion polls taken immediately following Crist’s announcement last Thursday showed the governor with a small lead over Rubio, with Meek trailing far behind.

Nelson, currently serving his second term, did not have an opinion on what impact millionaire real estate mogul Jeff Greene might have on the Democratic Senate primary. Greene announced his candidacy last week. Primary day in Florida is Aug. 24.

Sen. George LeMieux (R), appointed to the Senate by Crist last year after Mel Martinez (R) resigned, has announced that he will back the Republican Senate nominee. LeMieux said he spoke to Crist before he announced his decision to leave the GOP and urged his friend and former boss to remain in the Republican primary.