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Cherry-picking polls: Obama's leadership numbers tumble and would you believe Senator Charlie Crist?

June 22, 2010 |  6:24 am

CristCharlieObamaap

Remember a year ago when Florida's 44th Gov. Charlie Crist, then claiming to be a Republican, got a big friendly political hug from Democrat Barack Obama, the 44th president who was then claiming to be stimulating the economy with $787 billion of someone else's money?

That on-stage gesture (see photo above), viewed as practically traitorous by conservative Sunshine state Republicans, helped rocket former GOP state House Speaker and Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio to the front of the state's Senate primary race.

Which helped Crist suddenly realize that he was really an independent at heart.

Now, the disastrous gulf oil spill has thrust Crist and Obama, an unlikely pair of former state senators, together again. Despite Crist's conscientious beach patrols (see photo below), four Obama visits, an underwhelming Oval Office address and numerous rounds of presidential golf, the prehistoric goo is still surging uncontrolled into the country's southern coastal waters.

As one result, a new CBS News Poll finds most Americans believe Obama reacted too slowly to the catastrophe (61%) and has no clear plan to deal with it (59% nationwide, 64% in the gulf area).

Governor Charlie checks a Florida beach for signs of oil

Forty-five percent say Obama has no clear plan for developing new energy sources and 54% still say he has no clear plan for developing new jobs, 16 months after he signed his own massive jobs plan and numerous expensive sales trips to sell its benefits.

Since January those Americans who say Obama has strong leadership qualities has shrunk from 70% to 62%, according to the CBS survey.

This time Crist is moving in the opposite direction from Obama. The state's party primaries are not until August, but early this month Rasmussen Reports found Crist and Rubio tied at 37% in a general election match-up, with Rep. Kendrick Meek, the likely Democratic candidate, trailing meekly at 15%.

However, just out this week is a new Florida Chamber of Commerce poll showing Crist has surged to 42%, Rubio faded to 31% and Meek still trailing at 14%.

One reason: Crist, like Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, has benefited from the local leadership opportunities presented by the spill. Obama hasn't. Another reason: Unlike most Floridians, Rubio still favors offshore drilling. Flip-flop, baby, flip-flop.

Now, here's the autumn question for the White House: If polls still show Crist leading, do they back him even tacitly as an independent, likely winner and potential Senate ally a la Joe Lieberman and then let the under-performing Meek swing in the wind, despite his official D party label?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Associated Press; Joe Raedle / Getty Images.

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