Chiles Voters Liked McCain, Hate Obama
Pollster says supporters won't necessarily go to Sink, but Democrats are hopeful
Around the State
Bud Chiles is taking a hike from the Florida governor's race, but that doesn't mean the field is cleared for Democrat Alex Sink.
According to conventional wisdom, the independent Chiles would drain votes from Sink, since Chiles is the son of beloved former Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles.
Chiles, the younger, appeared to be getting traction in early polls that showed him garnering as much as 14 percent of the vote. That figure had dropped to 8 percent in the latest Public Policy Polling survey taken last week, just before Chiles dropped out.
A deeper look at those poll numbers showed that Chiles supporters actually tilted right, not left. They disapprove of President Barack Obama by a 69-31 margin and they voted for John McCain 62-33.
Overall, Chiles' backers were 47 percent Republican, 30 percent Democratic and 23 percent independent. Independents in Florida (Charlie Crist excepted) tend to lean right.
Those numbers suggest that Chiles voters will drift over to Republican Rick Scott on Nov. 2.
But PPP analyst Tom Jensen says it might not be that simple.
"The only problem with that is that 60 percent of them have an unfavorable opinion of Scott while only 15 percent see him favorably," Jensen wrote.
"Chiles was a landing spot for folks who didn't like Scott or the Democrats. With him out, those folks are going to have to make a lesser of two evils choice -- does it bother us more to vote for a guy we dislike or to vote for a Democrat?
"My guess is it ends up being a wash and having no real effect on the race."
That's one way to look at it, but readers also should bear in mind that PPP is a liberal-leaning polling organization, which may have some built-in partisan predilections.
In fact, Chiles had reportedly been under increasing pressure from Democrats to withdraw from the race. He met with Sink Tuesday and an endorsement could be forthcoming.
Even if Chiles throws his support to Sink, as seems likely, it's not clear how much mileage Democrats will get from it.
“The assumption is that if Chiles were to leave the race, more people who support him would be likely to go for Ms. Sink than Rick Scott, but it's hard to know the exact effect," Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown told the News Service of Florida. "The problem is we really don't know who is for Chiles."
The Scott and Sink campaigns are keeping mum for now.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.