Marco Rubio will get some serious help this fall in his bid to win Florida's open Senate seat: The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced this week that it plans to spend $2.5 million to boost the former state House speaker's campaign between now and November — one of the GOP's biggest investments this election year.
Add that to the cash that outside conservative groups like American Crossroads plan to spend on Rubio's behalf, and it's bad news for Gov. Charlie Crist, who, as an independent candidate with no party backing, will have to use his own campaign war chest to fend off attacks from Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek this fall. The big unknown is whether Democrats in Washington will spend party resources on Meek, who runs third in the polls -- or if they will spend their cash elsewhere, a strategy that would indirectly help Crist.
Meek, who won the Democratic nomination on Aug. 24, has so far largely ignored Rubio in favor of Crist. Polls show that the now-independent governor pulls away significant Democratic support from Meek. For a little over a week, the Democratic congressman's campaign has been highlighting Crist's Republican roots by reissuing press releases from Crist's campaign before he quit the party, which denounced key Democratic initiatives such as health care reform.
On Tuesday, Meek's campaign launched the first radio ad of the general election. In it, Florida voters hear Crist bragging that he's a "Jeb Bush Republican" and praising GOP figures like Sarah Palin and George W. Bush. The ad also includes audio of Crist describing himself as "pro-life" and suggesting that he supports offshore oil drilling — a flip-flop that Crist himself has acknowledged in the aftermath of the BP oil spill.
One plus for Crist is that he spent little cash this summer and heads into the fall with a serious financial advantage. According to his most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, Crist had just over $8 million in the bank — twice as much as Rubio, and four times as much as Meek. And that tally doesn't count the take from a spate of recent fundraisers, including one thrown on Crist's behalf by Democratic operative Mark Penn, a former adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
(Photo of audience member taking a picture of Rubio at June event: Joe Raedle/Getty Images