Charlie Crist, Rick Scott Locked Tight in New Q-Poll as Adrian Wyllie Factors In
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A poll from Quinnipiac University released Wednesday shows a close race in the Florida gubernatorial contest with the Libertarian candidate proving to be a major factor.
The poll shows former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite to win the Democratic primary next month despite spending most of his political life as a Republican, leading with 39 percent with Gov. Rick Scott right behind him with 37 percent. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie takes 9 percent. When Wyllie is left out of the poll, Crist’s lead increases. In that scenario Crist takes 45 percent while Scott garners 40 percent.
In both cases, Crist’s list has dwindled from a Quinnipiac poll taken at the end of April which found him beating Scott 48 percent to 38 percent. However, a majority of those surveyed in the new poll -- 51 percent -- say Scott does not deserve another term while 40 percent say he does.
"The campaign to be Florida's next governor tightens slightly and takes on a new dimension with a third candidate in the running," said Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, on Wednesday. "Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is not, at this point, a serious contender to win the governorship. But he may have a great deal to say about who does win."
When former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich replaces Crist in the poll, Scott leads 41 percent to to 34 percent.
The poll finds the two leading candidates are upside down. While 43 percent of voters view Scott favorably, 48 percent see him as unfavorable. Only 40 percent of those surveyed approve of Scott’s performance in Tallahassee while 45 percent disapprove of it. While 40 percent see Crist in a favorable light, 42 percent view him as unfavorable. Wyllie is largely unknown, with 92 percent of those surveyed saying they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion. Rich is also unknown, with 83 percent of those surveyed not knowing enough about her to have an opinion.
"Virtually no one knows much about Wyllie, but there are a lot of Floridians who aren't keen on either of the major party candidates, Gov. Rick Scott or former Gov. Charlie Christ," Brown said.
Despite having joined the Democrats in December 2012, Crist has the base rallied behind him, but his old colleagues in the GOP clearly have no use for him any more despite having been their statewide nominee four times. Republicans go for Scott 79 percent to 12 percent while Democrats break 78 percent to 10 percent for Crist. Wyllie draws from both parties when he is included in the mix. Republicans go 74 percent for Scott, 9 percent for Crist and 5 percent for Wyllie when the Libertarian is included. Democrats go Crist’s way 73 percent, to 9 percent for Scott and 6 percent for Wyllie.
Wyllie makes his mark with independents. Crist takes 36 percent of these voters while 34 percent go for Scott and 12 percent back Wyllie. When the Libertarian is taken out of the mix, Crist leads Scott, 45 percent to 38 percent.
Back in April’s poll, 52 percent of those surveyed saw Crist’s party-switching as positive while 40 percent said it was negative. Now 47 percent see it as positive and 45 percent view it as negative.
The poll shows voters have a low opinion of both of the leading candidates. A slim majority -- 51 percent -- say Scott is not honest while 48 percent say the same of Crist. Only 38 percent think Crist is honest and 40 percent say the same of Scott. A majority of voters -- 52 percent -- don’t think Scott cares about their problems while 47 percent say the same of Crist; 41 percent say the governor cares about their problems and 44 percent say Crist does. Scott is seen with strong leadership traits by 54 percent while only 38 percent say he doesn’t have them. Crist gets lower marks there, with 49 percent saying he has strong leadership qualities and 43 percent saying he doesn't. Voters think Crist is more compassionate than Scott, beating him 48 percent to 36 percent.
"Scott and Crist have been saturating the airwaves with negative ads about each other,” Brown said. "An old campaign maxim holds that you can't throw mud without getting dirty yourself and that seems to be what's happening here. Because Wyllie is so unknown and presumably unable to compete in the air war at this point, how he does may be a function of how unhappy voters are with the major party choices."
The poll of 1,251 registered Florida voters was taken from July 17-21 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.