THE BLOG
08/30/2010 11:46 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Will Florida Voters "Cross Over" This November?

The day before Florida's primary election, a rock-ribbed Republican friend of mine here in Jacksonville sent me a Twitter message.

"What's your feel, McCollum or Scott?"

"McCollum +4 pts," I replied.

As they say on Twitter, #epicfail.

The Rick Scott upset here in Florida over Attorney General Bill McCollum surprised the Republican establishment and the punditocracy in equal measure. Scott, the multimillionaire health care executive, has a bottomless campaign war chest and Tea Party fervor at his back. It was enough to defeat McCollum, who had strong establishment support, including the backing of former Governor Jeb Bush and state GOP chair John Thrasher (who must now make nice with the candidate they strongly opposed.)

However, Scott's victory, along with the equally fascinating three-man matchup for Florida's U.S. Senate seat, poses an interesting question:

Will partisan Florida voters "cross over" this election, hold their nose, and vote for a candidate of the other party? And will enough of them do it to put state CFO Alex Sink and Governor Charlie Crist into office?

My Twitter friend gives some indication of the rumblings over Scott's campaign, which is burdened by his tenure as former CEO of Columbia/HCA. Scott presided over a record $1.7 billion fraud settlement.

"Crazy election. I am not a Scott fan," came the DM.

"Will you join some GOP'ers who say they'll vote for Sink?" I asked.

"Count me as one of them."

Meanwhile, Governor Crist, running a tenuous "No Party Affiliation" campaign, is banking that just enough of the state's Democrats abandon their nominee, Kendrick Meek, to send him to the U.S. Senate cloakroom and the salons of Georgetown. Polls show him in a dead heat with GOP nominee, strong conservative, and former State House Speaker Marco Rubio.

"I just can't see voting for Meek," mused a strongly Democratic colleague of mine the other day.

"Why not?" I asked. "You agree with him on all the issues."

"Well, that's true... but a vote for Meek is a vote for Rubio. I'm going to hold my nose and vote for Crist."

To win, Crist must walk along a knife's edge from now until November -- by dominating among independent voters, siphoning at least some Republican votes away from Tea Party favorite Rubio -- and decisively pulling Democratic voters like my colleague from Meek's column. "What Crist really needs is another hurricane," said one local columnist I know, only half-jokingly.

But Florida, a notoriously "purple" state, is also known for its unpredictability. Thus, the "crossover question": Can the two candidates billing themselves as the centrists in their races, ride this crazy election season into office? Or can Meek bring the Democrats home -- and possibly swing the election to Rubio? Can Scott heal GOP divisions still bitterly felt around the state, and improve his favorable ratings among voters of his own party to best Alex Sink?

Stay tuned.