Swamp Politics: Combative Florida Races Highlight Primaries

Florida has long been fertile ground for interesting political stories, but even by its standards, today's primary provides a showcase worth noting.

The state presents a real conundrum for Democrats, who might benefit most if the person they'd least like to see in office wins their primary. And this election has served up some hard lessons for rich, self-financing candidates, who have dumped millions into their campaigns but still trail in the polls.

Most of the salacious story lines stem from Jeff Greene, the billionaire seeking the Democratic spot in the open race for Senate.

Greene brings a big personality into the race along with his close personal friendship with the former boxer Mike Tyson--the best man at Greene's wedding and a former roommate in Heidi Fleiss, notorious as the Hollywood Madame. Then there's his yacht called the "Summerwind," where there may or may not have been scandalous parties in far-flung and exotic locations.

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Greene burned brightly as a candidate for a short while, but has since fallen behind Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democratic Congressman who now leads in primary polls.

Meek has the backing of the Democratic establishment in the state and nation, and if he wins the primary will get their vocal backing in the general election too.

Meek has accused Greene, the real estate mogul, of benefiting off the backs of people losing their houses. Greene has said he wants to take a look at rolling back the embargo and travel restrictions toward Cuba.

Greene has said a vote against Meek is a vote against Washington.

Watch Kendrick Meek discuss the race here.

VIDEO: Florida Senate Race
Florida Senate Race

But from a tactical standpoint, a Meek victory would draw Democratic voters from Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the Republican party this year when it became clear that his moderate record and public backing of President Obama's economic policies made him unpalatable to Florida Republicans.

Into the Republican void went Marco Rubio, the former State House Speaker, who quickly became the darling of Washington Republicans and the Tea Party movement.

Video: Washington Post Chris Cillizza on "Top Line."
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Washington Democrats Could Benefit From Crist Victory

The three-way Senate race creates a complicated situation for Democrats. The most recent poll of a general election matchup shows Crist, running as an Independent, with a slight lead no matter who wins the Democratic primary. He would be more friendly to them as a Senator than Rubio would.

Crist is expected to do well among independent voters. But he would need help from Democrats to defeat Rubio in November. The conventional wisdom is that Democrats will be more likely to vote for Crist if it is Greene and not Meek on the ballot as a Democrat. Some Washington Democrats, increasingly alarmed that their control of Congress is slipping away, quietly admit that they'd rather have Crist in the Senate than Rubio. And Greene beating Meek makes a Crist victory more likely.

Video: Washington Posts Perry Bacon Jr., on "Top Line."
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Meek has rejected the notion that he cannot win the general election.

"Once we get out of the primary, you will see a new day," he told ABC's Rick Klein this month. While Crist has technically left the Republican party, Meek said he would be "running against two Republicans" in November.

Democrats aren't the only ones with an interesting primary in Florida.

Republicans Fight In Gubernatorial Primary

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