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Poll: A Crist indy bid would help Rubio

Gov. Charlie Crist insists he is running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican and won't switch to an independent. Besides a likely drop-off in campaign donations the new Public Policy poll might add some more evidence as to why: Such a run would benefit Marco Rubio by siphoning off more Democratic votes from Kendrick Meek than GOP votes from Rubio.

This is the same firm that the Crist camp derided yesterday as too liberal. It had Rubio leading the primary 60-28. From the firm's analysis:

In a hypothetical three way contest Rubio leads with 34% to 27% for Crist and 25% for Kendrick Meek. Crist gets 32% of the Democratic vote but only 18% of Republicans running as an independent. He also leads among independents with 35% to 24% for Rubio and 22% for Crist.

The general election scenario that would give Democrats the best chance at winning the seat is a straight on contest between Rubio and Meek. The Republican leads 44-39 in that match up, and because there are a lot more undecided Democrats (20%) than Republicans (12%) the race is realistically probably even closer than 5 points. Rubio benefits from a more unified party with 77% of Republicans already committed to voting for him compared to 67% of Democrats who say they'll vote for Meek. But Meek leads 41-34 with independents, a very rare outcome in this political climate when independents are usually leaning strongly toward the GOP.

A Crist-Meek general election contest, which had looked like the most likely match up for so long, would give Republicans their easiest shot at holding onto the seat. Crist leads Meek 46-33. He's a stronger general election candidate because he gets 29% of the Democratic vote, compared to just 13% for Rubio, and because he wins independent voters by 10 points where Rubio loses them by 7. But given Crist's standing for the primary at this point these numbers seem almost elementary.