FL-SEN: The GOP Civil War Rages On

Undaunted by their epic failure in NY-23, conservatives are looking to scozzafava Florida’s 2010 Senate election.

Incumbent Republican Senator Mel Martinez is retiring that year, leaving his seat open. The Democratic candidate will be (in all likelihood) Congressman Kendrick Meek; the GOP primary will be between Governor Charlie Crist and FL House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Even though Gov. Crist is a pretty strong favorite to win both the GOP primary and the general election, the right has decided that  they will do everything they can to keep him from winning the Republican nomination.

Just like with Dede Scozzafava, conservatives decreed that Gov. Crist is insufficiently conservative (despite Florida’s purple swing-state status). Just like Doug Hoffman, conservatives are instead backing a more conservative candidate, Speaker Rubio. Just like Hoffman, Rubio was endorsed by the failure-prone Club for Growth.

And like New York, Florida has a conservative third party that could play the role of spoiler. At least, now they do:

A Tea Party party registers in Florida.

A Florida conservative has registered an official “Tea Party” with the office of the Secretary of State, and is promising to run candidates against Republicans and Democrats in state and national races.

“The current system has become mired in the sludge of special interest money that seeks to control the leadership of both parties. It’s time for real change,” says Orlando lawyer Frederic O’Neal, the new party’s chairman, who couldn’t be reached immediately by phone, in a press release.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Secretary of State, Jennifer Davis, said the party had registered in August, and that its qualified candidates will appear on the ballot in the state.

O’Neal compared his party’s role to that of the Conservative Party in New York’s 23rd District.

[Emphasis mine]

NY-23 and FL-Sen aren’t entirely analogous situations.  Yet, it certainly looks like the right is continuing the trend they started in upstate New York: torpedoing popular moderate Republicans in favor of right-wing conservatives.

Will they succeed in Florida, which is admittedly more conservative than New York? Or will they once again succeed in handing yet another Republican seat over to the Democrats?