If Republicans Lose Both Governor and Senate Races, Is the Tea Party to Blame?

Back in early 2009 it seemed that Charlie Crist was a guarantee to win the Senate race as a Republican, and Bill McCollum had the edge in the Governors race. Now the latest Quinnipiac poll shows that GOP candidates are trailing in both the Senate and Governors race. What happened? Was it the Tea Party and a race on the Republican side for candidates to "out-conservative" each other?

In the latest Q-poll democrat Alex Sink has taken the lead against both potential Republican candidates Bill McCollum and Rick Scott. She gets 31 percent to McCollum's 29 percent, and a heftier 33 percent to Scott's 29 percent. That's a change from late July, when both McCollum and Scott led Sink.

In the Senate race Independent Crist holds onto his lead. Here's the numbers in a three way match up between Crist, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek (who leads the primary now): 39/32/16. Replacing Meek with Jeff Greene: 40/32/15.

No matter which way you cut it, things aren't looking good for Republicans. Was their race to the far right to blame?

Crist was aggressively targeted to run for Senate by national Republicans, because they saw his candidacy as a sure shot. They were right, but Tea Party activists didn't like Crist's independent, populist streak and along came Marco Rubio running far to Crist's right, attack him with photos of the Obama hug, and chugging Tea like there was no tomorrow. It was so effective Crist jumped away from the party, and it seems to have been a smart gamble. It's going to look awfully embarrassing for the Republican Party of Florida if he ends up winning.

Conservatives say the Democrats are out of touch with America, but how in touch with the electorate can you be when you reject a candidate who still wins the general election on what's basically a moderate Republican platform?

Meanwhile, in the Governors race it was never close to a sure thing that Attorney General Bill McCollum would win the Governor's race, but early numbers gave him a clear name recognition advantage over CFO Alex Sink.

Then along came Rick Scott. He was never as embedded with the Tea Party crowd as Rubio was, but he made no secret in courting them. There's not that much room to run to the right of McCollum, but Scott found a way. The ensuing, nasty battle to prove who is more right wing that has become the Republican primary has hurt the approval numbers of both candidates.

"Once the primary is over, the race for Governor will be one to define Alex Sink for the majority of Floridians who don't know enough about her to have an opinion. McCollum, who leads the GOP primary race, has seen his favorable/unfavorable ratio sink from 37 - 29 percent favorable among all registered voters to a negative 33 - 34 percent. Scott's has dropped from 31 - 22 percent favorable in June to a negative 28 - 40 percent today," says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Things could change between now and November, but if the GOP comes up empty handed in the top two state races in Florida they may have the Tea Party fueled conservative wing of their party to blame.