The battle lines are drawn between the embattled centrists and the enraged base in both parties. We've seen a flurry of RINO hunting and DINO hunting so far this year, successfully targeting incumbents who are derided as "Republicans in Name Only" or "Democrats in Name Only," deemed to be insufficiently ideological by grass-roots activists and their backers.Avlon references the elections in California, Nevada, Arkansas, and South Carolina, but fails to mention the Florida senate race that is looking to be a threeway between Democrat Rep. Kendrick Meek, Independent Governor Charlie Crist, and Tea Party/GOP darling Marco Rubio.
The BP oil disaster only strengthens populist anger at both big business and big government to date. And this year's intra-party purification debates continue unabated.
Closed partisan primaries are a paradise for party activists, but they can lead to a vicious hangover the morning after, as parties begin to wake up to the reality that principled centrists generally have a better chance to win a general election than those from the ideological extremes.
While Meek appears to be a pretty good Democratic candidate, the lack of a Democratic primary has kept public awareness of the candidate at a low. While Democrats would certainly have voted for Meek had it been him against the likely GOP candidate Rubio, Crist threw a wrench in the works by announcing his candidacy as an independent. Crist got some flack from his party which seemed to abandon him because of his acceptance of some centrist positions, and now that he is running separate from the parties, polling has shown Crist to be the winner.
In my opinion, the real race is between Meek and Crist. Rubio is limited by the Tea Party base and any move to the left would be viewed as a betrayal. All Meek needs to do is to make himself more public and accentuate his more moderate politics but he is at a disadvantage - Crist can make news simply because he is the governor. Just consider Crist walking Florida beaches recently because of the oil spill - he got free press coverage for simply doing his job.