For much of the build up to the 2008 Democratic primaries, the consensus among political oddsmakers, pollsters, and politicos (myself included) was that Hillary Clinton was virtually a shoo-in to win the Democratic nomination. After all, the Clintons were the most powerful name in the Democratic Party, and as a result the Democratic machine fought tooth and nail to ensure Clinton’s victory. However, after the Iowa caucus, it became clear that Barack Obama — the junior Senator from Illinois with less than a full term of experience under his belt — would provide some serious competition for the nomination. In the end, the Democratic machine backing Clinton was pitted against the grassroots who supported Obama, and a fairly incredible phenomenon in politics happened: the grassroots won!
The ongoing Senate race in Florida between Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist presents the Republicans with the very same narrative. Crist has received the endorsement of the NRSC, while a large portion of the GOP grassroots and netroots has expressed an outpouring of disdain for the endorsement and are fighting to elect Rubio (or at least for the NRSC to remain neutral in the race). Although not quite at the Presidential level, this is very much the GOP’s version of Obama vs. Clinton.
Of course, the important question here then is, “Who ultimately controls the GOP, the grassroots or the machine?” — and obviously, the only way to answer this question is to see how the race turns out.
(Personally, I’ll be pulling for the grassroots. If you feel the same way, you can donate to Marco Rubio here.)