"Undecided" is still the leader in the Republican race for attorney general, but the three GOP candidates are each making inroads -- especially Jeff Kottkamp, a new Sunshine State News Poll shows.
With just five days until Election Day, the poll shows Lt. Gov. Kottkamp with 29 percent, Hillsborough County prosecutor Pam Bondi at 22 percent and Holly Benson, a former state administrator, garnering 19 percent.
Thirty percent of respondents remain undecided in the survey of 1,000 likely Republican voters conducted Aug. 12-15 by Voter Survey Service for the Sunshine State News Poll. A whopping 55 percent were undecided in last month's VSS poll.
Today's poll shows the biggest gains for Kottkamp since VSS's July 10 survey, which he led by a single percentage point over Bondi. Since then, the lieutenant governor has picked up 12 percentage points while Benson gained 7 points and Bondi added 6.
VSS president Jim Lee said Kottkamp's edge among senior citizens and "super voters" (who voted in both the 2006 and 2008 primaries) indicates that the lieutenant governor "has support with stalwart, base GOP voters who can be a reliable voting bloc in a low-turnout primary election.
"Although Kottkamp has picked up support with most demographic groups (in comparison to the July poll), his increase seems to be driven by a surge in support particularly among both young voters and voters in North Florida," Lee added.
In the July poll among 18- to 44-year-olds, the race was wide open, with 61 percent still undecided, and all three candidates tied within the polls margin of error. The current survey shows Kottkamp jumping out to 36 percent of that age demographic, far ahead of Benson (at 17 percent) and Bondi (at 14 percent).
Benson, a Pensacola resident, led the North Florida region with 21 percent in the July survey. In the current poll, Kottkamp has pulled into the lead with 33 percent, compared to Benson's 24 percent and Bondi's 13 percent.
North Florida was the only one of three regions that registered a dramatic shift. Bondi narrowly led both polls in Central Florida, while Kottkamp, from Southwest Florida, enjoys double-digit leads in the southern region. Bondi still leads the pack at her home base in the Tampa Bay area with 38 percent (Kottkamp 27 percent, Benson 13 percent).
"One additional factor that seems to be working in Kottkamps favor is that the two women in the race could be splitting the female vote, which could be hurting Bondi since she was the candidate who in the last poll we concluded as the one with the best chance for growth," Lee said.
In the current survey, Kottkamp holds an 11-point lead among males -- 32 percent vs. 21 percent for Bondi and 19 percent for Benson -- whereas among females Kottkamp leads by 4 points (Kottkamp, 26 percent; Bondi, 22 percent; and Benson, 19 percent).
Strategically and politically, Kottkamp may have benefited by distancing himself from his controversial boss, Republican-turned-independent Gov. Charlie Crist when he endorsed Marco Rubio in the upcoming U.S. Senate race.
Kottkamp also has picked up support from social conservatives and right-to-life groups -- both big players in GOP primaries.
"Kottkamp has better solidified his base and he's getting separation," Lee noted. "He has the most potential to tap into older voters. He seems to have a better comfort level with seniors as the safer choice."
Describing Kottkamp's team as "cautiously optimistic," campaign spokesman David Bishop said, "It's now clear there is movement in the race and that he has the momentum. All polls point in that direction."
Bondi claimed her own momentum, saying: "The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day, but all the momentum is on our side, and we are confident that our grass-roots organization and endorsements like the one from the Florida Chamber of Commerce will carry us through to victory next Tuesday."
Benson's spokeswoman, Sarah Bascom, said, This race is close and going to come down to the wire. We are confident that our grass-roots support and get-out-the-vote programs will carry Holly to victory on Tuesday.
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.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.
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 states 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.