Bill Nelson Leads Connie Mack by 5 Points; I-4 Corridor Could Be the Decider
Around the State
UPDATED -- Incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson holds a 5-percentage-point lead over Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, according to the latest Sunshine State News Poll, just as early voting in Florida begins and the race moves into its final days.
The battle now shifts to the remaining 7 percent of undecideds, the bulk of whom live along the Central Florida Interstate-4 corridor.
Nelson, a Democrat from Orlando, held a 49 percent to 44 percent edge over Mack, a Republican from Naples, with Nelson holding advantages for his social and entitlement stances, while Mack holds the upper hand on jobs and the economy, according to a poll conducted by Harrisburg, Pa.-Voter Survey Service.
The poll of 1,001 likely Florida voters, conducted Oct. 22-24, gave Nelson -- who first entered Congress in 1979 -- a 45 percent favorable rating. However, he also was seen unfavorably by 42 percent of those contacted.
Mack, who has been the target on constant negative advertising since entering a contentious GOP primary field, is seen favorably by 33 percent of those polled and unfavorably by 48 percent.
VSS President Jim Lee said that while Mack could close the gap through the undecided count -- the survey had a 3.1 percent margin of error -- the public perception may be too difficult to overcome.
“The question has to be asked by the Mack campaign: If you are voting for Romney, why vote for Nelson who has been an Obama supporter in Washington and who will oppose Romney’s agenda with another term in Washington?” Lee posed.
“Then Mack’s only hope is to tie his campaign in the remaining days to Romney who will win the state and is leading nationally for the presidency.”
The same likely voters polled about Mack-Nelson favored Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney 51 percent, to 46 percent for President Obama.
Mack intends to be on the campaign trail Saturday with Romney in Pensacola, Kissimmee and Land O' Lakes.
As University of South Florida political science professor Susan Macmanus noted that a key for Obama will be getting younger voters to the polls, Nelson also sees a wide range of support from younger voters.
The race is in a statistical dead heat among voters aged 45 and older, while those under the age of 29 favor Nelson by a 61 percent to 29 percent mark -- 11 percent undecided -- and those between the ages of 30 and 44 are for Nelson, 49 percent to 43 percent.
Also in line with the presidential contest, women favor Nelson – 54 percent to 39 percent -- while Mack has the edge among men – 49 percent to 44 percent.
The Nelson campaign expects the race to remain close.
“Despite shadow groups spending tons of money on TV attack ads to distort Bill Nelson’s record, he’s still leading in all the polls,” Dan McLaughlin, the spokesman for the Nelson campaign, responded in an email.
“But the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day, which is why Bill’s campaigning hard across the state.”
Jeff Cohen, Mack’s campaign manager, said they expect to win the I-4 corridor by one or two points, which should push them ahead on Election Day.
"Here you have yet another poll with Sen. Nelson under 50 percent, a very bad position for a two term incumbent,” Cohen said. “It’s reasonable to expect undecided voters will break for Connie roughly three to two.”
Peter Bergerson, a political-science professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, told the Naples Daily News that the race has been lost among Floridians due to the presidential contest.
"One of the things that has happened is the presidential race in Florida has sucked all of the political oxygen out," Bergerson told the Daily News. "That leaves the Nelson-Mack race as the undercard, and not a lot of people have been focused on it."
According to the VSS poll results, 50 percent of those contacted labeled themselves conservative and the rest were evenly split in declaring themselves liberal or moderate.
The spread appears in line with polls conducted a week earlier by Rasmussen Reports, the Democrat-leaning PPP and Survey USA.
The Mack campaign disputed polling in September that put Nelson up by double digits, pointing out that their own internal polls put the contest 47.7 percent to 42.3 percent at the time for Nelson.
See the cross-tabs and methodology for this poll in the attachments below.
The margin of error for a sample size of 1,001 interviews is +/- 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
Reach Jim Turner at email@example.com or at (772) 215-9889.