Can Crist Avoid Squeeze Play and Will Scott's Past Come Back to Haunt Him?

Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek is an underdog in a tight race.

ByABC News
August 25, 2010, 7:40 AM

Aug. 25, 2010— -- Despite a convincing win in the Democratic primary against a better-funded opponent, Rep. Kendrick Meek remains an underdog in November's U.S. Senate race in Florida.

The most recent polling by Quinnipiac University -- Aug. 11-16 -- showed independent Gov. Charlie Crist leading the three-way race with 39 percent of the vote. Ex-State House Speaker Marco Rubio had 32 percent, and Meek trailed far behind at 16 percent.

Meek's low-name ID is one reason for his weak showing. But, more problematic is Crist's taking 45 percent of the Democratic vote and 50 percent of the independent vote.

Since registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state, Meek can't afford to split his base with Crist.

In 2006, for example, exit polling showed that 39 percent of the electorate was Republican, 36 percent was Democrat and 25 percent was independent. Given the current political climate, it's easy to assume that the Republican vote could go even higher.

So, can Crist really win this?

A quick look at the math says it's going to be very tough.

First, we have to assume that Crist is at his high-water mark. He's not had to endure a bruising primary. He's used the oil spill crisis as an opportunity to keep himself in front of the cameras. Plus, he's made serious overtures to Democrats on such issues as abortion, education and off-shore drilling. Even so, can he hold onto those Democratic votes once Meek and his allies remind Democratic voters about Crist's Republican heritage?

Rubio, meanwhile, is going to be squeezing Crist from the right and driving down his support from Republican voters -- remember "the hug" with President Obama?

If we assume a turnout that looks exactly like the one in 2006, Crist would need to take at least 45 percent of the Democratic vote and about 25 percent of the Republican vote and still hold half the independent vote to win. But Rubio can win if he gets 80 percent of the Republican vote and at least 30 percent of the independent vote, assuming he receives no Democratic votes.

Where Democrats chances have brightened, however, is in the gubernatorial race. Republican businessman Rick Scott spent $50 million in a bruising primary and narrowly beat establishment favorite, Attorney General Bill McCollum.