GOP Governor's Race Back to Tossup
Around the State
Riding a late TV advertising blitz and Jeb Bush's endorsement, Bill McCollum has pulled into a statistical tie with rival Rick Scott in the Republican gubernatorial race, a new Sunshine State News Poll finds.
McCollum trails Scott 44 to 42 percent in the poll conducted Aug. 12-15. The survey sampled 1,000 Republican voters likely to cast ballots in next Tuesday's primary election.
The attorney general was 16 points behind Scott in a July 10 poll. Both surveys were conducted for Sunshine State News by Voter Survey Service.
McCollum picked up 12 percentage points in the new survey while Scott dropped 2 points. The field of undecided voters dwindled from 28 percent to 18 percent.
"McCollum’s growth is largely due to a surge in support with both senior citizens and voters in North and Central Florida. With seniors, he overcame a 41-31 deficit in July to pull to a 42-42 tie in the current survey," said Jim Lee, president of VSS.
In North Florida, Scott’s 18 point lead in July was reduced to a statistical 40-39 tie. In Central Florida, McCollum's home base, Scott’s earlier 45-30 margin evaporated to a 41-41 tie.
Scott still leads in South Florida (46-39), but this also represents a tightening of the race in comparison to his 42-29 edge in July.
In both polls, Scott’s strongest region has been his home base of Southwest Florida, where he led McCollum by 22 points in the July poll and 18 points in the current survey.
McCollum also erased a 24-point deficit among males. Where he trailed Scott in July, 49-25, he has pulled to within two points at 42-40.
"Since the percentage of undecided voters is fairly uniform across the state (averaging between 15 and 20 percent) the race now comes down to turnout, and who does a better job getting out their base," Lee said.
"McCollum has to be considered the candidate with the momentum, though, given that Scott’s support has remained virtually flat," Lee stated.
Using late cash infusions to buy TV spots portraying his experience and conservative bona fides, McCollum apparently has managed to lower his negative ratings, which were at a toxic 50 percent in the July poll.
Jeb Bush's endorsement since the initial poll is also believed to have raised McCollum's credibility as a viable candidate.
The latest survey did not measure positive/negative ratings, but Lee said "campaigning since the last poll has leveled the playing field and resurrected McCollum's image to some extent.
"I didn't think we'd see this much movement in three weeks. Momentum has clearly shifted. To what extent McCollum might hit a brick wall, we just don't have the answer yet."
University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith opined that "primary voters are sticking with the more-known commodity, Bill McCollum."
Scott, he added, "tends to be doing better in polls that cast a wider 'likely voter' net."
Scott, who didn't enter the race until April, quickly built up his name recognition on the strength of a TV advertising campaign, funded almost exclusively from his own wallet. The retired health-care executive and his wife have spent an estimated $30 million of their personal wealth in less than five months.
That's more than triple the amount raised by McCollum, though the attorney general has widely benefited from nominally independent "527" groups -- U.S. Sugar Coporation and its $680,000 is among them -- and leading Republican lawmakers' campaign funds, which have financed much of his TV advertising.
Questioned about the poll before the specific numbers were made public, McCollum spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said, "Everyone knows it's incredibly tight right now.
"Floridians are learning more about Rick Scott beyond the 30-second ads, about the massive Medicare fraud, and about alarming new allegations about possible criminal activity at Solantic (Scott's new chain of walk-in clinics).
"It's a question of credibility and integrity going into the election," Campbell said.
Scott spokesman Joe Kildea said, “We always knew the race would tighten, but despite the support of the entire GOP establishment and the laundered money from the Tallahassee special-interest insiders, Bill McCollum still hasn’t been able to overcome his record as a career politician of raising taxes, abusing the state airplane, raising his pay and covering up for his political mentor, Jim Greer.
"Just like the GOP establishment in states like Kentucky and Colorado underestimated the power of the conservative outsider, the Florida establishment is also underestimating voter turnout," Kildea concluded.
VSS, an independent polling company which is a division of Susquehanna (Pa.) Polling & Research, questioned 1,000 likely Republican voters across Florida. The poll's margin of error is 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
This survey was commissioned by Sunshine State News and conducted Aug. 12-15 by Voter Survey Service, a division of Pennsylvania-based Susquehanna Polling and Research in Harrisburg. Calls were automated, meaning that voters were contacted using a pre-recorded set of questions instructing voters to complete the survey by pressing their telephone key pads to score their answers; no live interviewers were used. The universe for the poll includes a random sample of voters from a statewide voter registration list of registered Republican voters who have prior vote history in either the 2008 or 2006 (regularly-held) primary elections. A vote intensity screen was also applied to gauge interest in the upcoming August 24th primary election, with interviews being exclusively conducted among those who indicated they have an “excellent”, “good” or “fair” chance of voting, while those who indicated their chances of voting were “poor” being disqualified. Interviews are also monitored to ensure a representative sample of the state’s Republican voters are interviewed proportionally based on demographics like geographic region, age and gender consistent with what we believe will be likely voter turnout on August 24th. Results are sometimes statistically weighted to reflect under or over samples within various demographic groups. The margin of error for a sample size of 1,000 interviews is +/-3.1% at the 95% confidence level, but higher for sub groups of respondents.
ABOUT VOTER SURVEY SERVICE AND ITS PRESIDENT
Voter Survey Service (VSS) has conducted hundreds of polls in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Delaware, Maryland, and other states across the nation. It is a leading survey research and political polling firm for GOP candidates for public office and a variety of corporate clients, trade associations, public relations firms and the media.
Jim Lee, president of VSS, has 15 years of polling experience and background as a former lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and as a special projects coordinator for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He has a bachelor of science degree in political science from Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., and he's a member of both the American Association of Public Opinion Research and the American Association of Political Consultants.
The company's polling has been quoted in numerous publications and media programs, including The Sean Hannity Show on Fox News; MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews; the Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck radio programs; The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Times; and a variety of national and state blogs that track polling, such as realclearpolitics.com, The Hotline, The Polling Report, and others.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.