Conservative Republican Marco Rubio is building a lead over moderate Governor Charlie Crist in Florida’s Republican Senate primary, a contest highlighting the perils facing party moderates in this rambunctious election year, a poll shows.
A Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Republican primary voters released this week showed Rubio, a former Florida House Speaker, with 54 percent support against Crist’s 36 percent. A poll in January had Rubio ahead by 13 points.
The primary race has echoes in Arizona, where veteran Senator John McCain faces his strongest challenge yet from fiery conservative J.D. Hayworth, who is attacking his “moderate record” on taxes, social issues and the bank bailout.
Rubio, who like Hayworth is a favorite of Tea Party conservative activists who hope to make a splash in the 2010 congressional election and beyond, is campaigning on issues including opposition to “excessive and wasteful spending in Washington” and big government.
He is assailing Crist for taking funds from the $787 billion federal government stimulus, and for his willingness to work with Democratic President Barack Obama — a definite no-no with Republican hard-liners.