Crist and his team cant be happy about a poll released on Tuesday from Democrat pollster PPP. Not only is Crist tied with Rick Scott but his poll numbers are awful. Almost half of voters -- 48 percent -- see Crist as unfavorable and less than a third -- 32 percent -- view Crist as favorable. Crists numbers are below where Scotts are.
Scotts strategy for the first half of the year seems to be working. Granted, Scotts numbers are bad, but Crists are worse. Scotts team seemed determined to go to work on Crist from the start, hitting him early and often. It works. Polls throughout 2013 showed Crist in great shape with the voters and easily besting Scott. But things have changed considerably. Scotts people realized they would never catch Crist so their best bet was to drag the Democrat to where the governor is. Based on the latest polls, this bet is paying off.
Crist has been here before. Back in 2010, Crist ran for the Senate. He had a massive lead over Marco Rubio in all the polls but got caught in the Republican primary. With Crist backing Obamas stimulus, Republicans soured on their former standard-bearer. Crist never regained his groove after Rubio and conservatives kept piling on the attacks.
So Crist left the GOP and ran with no party affiliation. Once again, Crist started out with the lead but quickly blew it. Rubio kept going after Crist and so did Democrat Kendrick Meek. By the time the smoke cleared, Crist took only 30 percent of the vote, far behind Rubio.
Crist has to follow a different game plan this summer than what he drew up in 2010. He has to bounce back from dropping in the polls, something he failed to do before, coughing up two major leads and turning what should have been a slam dunk bid for the Senate to a disaster.
If Crist wants to return to the governors mansion, he will also have to be able to deal better with attacks. He never quite did that in 2010 against Rubio and Meek. Scott has bottomless pockets and a strong fundraising edge over Crist. If the race is going to descend into a choice between the lesser of two evils -- and all signs indicate thats exactly where its headed -- whoever throws the most mud usually prevails. Scotts ample war chest should give Crist an edge there.
Still, there is some good news for Crist. Nothing indicates that Nan Rich is close to being a threat to Crist and the new poll shows she remains largely unknown. Even though its been reported that Bill Nelson was close to entering, he still shows no signs of stealing Crists thunder and he has until next Friday to get in the race. Despite his Republican past, Crist gets the approval of a majority -- 56 percent -- of Democrats in the PPP poll.
But that might not be enough, especially if, as the poll shows, Scott leads Crist among independents. Just like before, Crist is seeing his large lead in the polls vanish. Democrats have to hope he can recover better than he did in 2010 if they want to win their first gubernatorial race in 20 years.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.