Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Everyone is now gloomy about the political prospects of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. It's easy to see why. Crist was supposed to be the strong favorite for his state's open Senate seat. He was at least supposed to be the Republican nominee.
Yet a new Quinnipiac poll has him trailing former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio in the Republican primary. Other polling confirms that the race is tight. Crist's star appears to be falling as quickly as it rose.
But, since Crist is the perpetually sunny governor of the Sunshine state, let me try some optimism on his behalf.
When Crist took office in January 2007, Florida had an unemployment rate of 3.3%, well below the national average. Today, the unemployment rate is 11.8%, well above the national average.
Florida had more than 500,000 foreclosure filings last year. It's foreclosure rate was the third highest in the country, behind only Nevada and Arizona.
That doesn't sound that optimistic, until you consider this: According to Quinnipiac, 50% of Floridians still approve of the job that Charlie Crist is doing (only 38% disapprove). Even more Floridians, 52%, view him favorably. The economy of Florida has come pretty close to imploding and Crist is still fairly popular. Less-skilled politicians would already be goners under the same circumstances.
Crist's trouble against Rubio has a lot to do with the governor's moderate reputation. But, he's still viewed favorably by 64% of Republicans, according to Quinnipiac. And, I suspect that even with Republicans, some of Crist's problems have more to do with the economy than his support for the stimulus or cap-and-trade. He still has a good opportunity to win the Republican nomination and win the Senate seat, especially if the economy starts recovering.
If the economy doesn't start recovering? Well, even Crist's optimism probably has its limits.
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