Gov. Rick Scott has come back strongly against former Gov. Charlie Crist, according to a poll released on Wednesday -- and he's done it in dramatic fashion, considering the poll leans in Crist's favor.
The poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP), a firm with connections to prominent Democrats, finds Crist, who is running for the Democratic nomination, taking 43 percent while Scott is right on his heels with 41 percent. The poll finds Scott does much better against former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, beating her 40 percent to 34 percent. The poll does lean in Crist's favor, as voters who backed President Barack Obama in 2012 make up 51 percent of the sampled population while only 44 percent backed Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. Obama beat Romney by almost 1 percent in Florida.
PPP finds all three of the candidates are upside down. A majority of those surveyed -- 51 percent -- disapprove of Scott while 34 percent approve of him. Crist is seen as unfavorable by 46 percent while 36 percent approve of him. Rich is seen as favorable by only 9 percent while 21 percent see her as unfavorable and 70 percent are not sure about her.
The new poll represents a major change from a PPP poll taken at the end of September. That poll found Crist beating Scott 50 percent to 38 percent and showed the Republican narrowly edging Rich: 37 percent to 36 percent. Scotts numbers are largely unchanged from September when they stood at 55 percent disapproving and 33 percent approving. The same holds true for Rich who was seen as unfavorable by 23 percent and favorable by 8 percent. However, Crist was above water in September with 43 percent seeing him as favorable and 42 percent as unfavorable.
Dean Debnam, the president of PPP, pointed toward gains Scott made with Republicans in the past few months. In the current poll, Scott takes 80 pecent of Republicans against Crist as opposed to 65 percent back in the September poll.
Republican votes have really rallied around Rick Scott over the last three months, said Debnam. His consolidating support from the party base explains most of his gains relative to Charlie Crist since the last time we polled.
Scott also nipped into Crists lead among Democrats, narrowing the former governors 55 percent advantage in September to 46 percent. Scotts gains among independents was less noticeable as Crists 26 percent lead with those voters in September dropped to 24 percent in the new poll.
Despite joining the Democrats at the end of 2012 after spending most of his political career as a Republican, Crist holds a strong lead in the primary, taking 58 percent of likely primary voters while Rich garners the support of 16 percent. PPP released a poll taken at the end of September which showed similar numbers with Crist at 59 percent and Rich at 16 percent.
But the new poll does show signs of Crist slipping. In the September poll, 62 percent of Democratic primary voters saw Crist in a favorable light and 23 percent saw him as unfavorable. Now 51 percent of Democratic primary voters see Crist as favorable and 27 percent see him as unfavorable. Rich has made little progress at Crists expense as currently 13 percent of primary voters see her as favorable, the same as it was in September, and 18 percent see her as unfavorable, down slightly from 23 percent in the earlier poll.
The poll of 591 Florida voters was taken from Jan. 16-21 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent. The poll of 243 likely Democratic primary voters was taken from Jan. 16-21 and had a margin of error of +/- 6.3 percent.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.