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Poll: Rick Scott Takes Lead, 'Favored to Win'

October 3, 2010 - 6:00pm

Republican Rick Scott has taken the lead over Democrat Alex Sink in Florida's tight gubernatorial contest, according to a new Sunshine State News Poll.

Though Scott's 44-42 advantage, with 14 percent still undecided, is within the margin of error, the Republican holds wider leads with voters most likely to cast ballots, the poll shows.

"Based on this poll, Scott has to be favored to win this," said Jim Lee, president of Voter Survey Service, which conducted the sampling."His margin is even better among 'excellent' voters, or those most likely to vote (a 3-point advantage), as well as among voters who voted in both the 08 and '06 general elections (a 4-point lead).

"Conversely, the race flips to Sink by 20 points among those whose chances of voting are only 'good' or 'fair' (42/22 margin), and a 9-point (48/39) Sink lead among '1x' voters which are the sub-sample of those who only cast ballots in the 08 presidential election but not the 06 election," Lee said.

The VSS survey, commissioned by Sunshine State News, is weighted toward the most likely voters. So-called presidential-type voters made up just 19 percent of the 1,003-voter sample conducted Sept. 28-Oct. 3.

"These (presidential-cycle voters) are the key to Sink if she can gin up turnout. No small task," Lee said.

VSS' previous survey, released Sept. 10, showed Sink with a 44-42 advantage. Detecting a small migration toward Scott since then, the latest poll cited two factors:

  • Scott has succeeded in solidifying the GOP base.He went from a 49/28 favorable/unfavorable rating with Republican voters to a 62/28 ratio in the current poll.Hes now winning Republicans by a 74/11 margin, up from 69/15.
  • Scott now leads narrowly with independents (42/37), compared to a 47/36 Sink lead in the last poll.This is driven by the fact that Sink is now inverted with independents on name identification (45/34 negative) compared to a positive 33/29 ratio in the last poll.

Overall, Sink's "unfavorable" rating jumped from 28 percent in the previous poll to 47 percent in the latest survey -- the same level held by Scott.

Scott campaign spokesman Joe Kildea said, Voters are starting to figure out that Alex Sink isn't the financial watchdog she claims to be -- she has a track record of disaster after disaster and she never seems to know how it happened.

"When faced with a choice between that and a candidate like Rick Scott, who has an honest plan to create jobs, the choice is clear."

Kyra Jennings, press secretary for the Sink campaign, said, "The race is basically tied now, and Floridians are learning more about the difference in the two candidates' records -- Alex Sink led her Florida-based company with honesty and integrity while Rick Scott oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in our nation's history.

"Rick Scott can't be trusted to turn our economy around and character counts, which is why Alex Sink will be our next governor."

Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist who supported Bill McCollum in the GOP primary and is not affiliated with the Scott campaign, said, "Alex Sink's campaign is hobbled by the fact that, like the rest of America, Floridians don't trust Democrats to restore economic growth and prosperity.

"They know she was a cheerleader for Barack Obama and is a fellow-traveler in the same disastrous school of higher taxes and bigger government."

Lance deHaven-Smith, a professor at Florida State University's Reuben Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, suggested that Sink's rising unfavorable rating is a function of the TV ad wars.

"Negative ads drive negatives," he said. But deHaven-Smith also indicated, "Voters are not entirely paying attention yet."

"I would expect to see this race stay tight. It's unpredictable at this point," the professor said.

Looking at the 14 percent of voters who remain undecided, Lee said, "Scott is knocking at the door of 51 percent, based on this reasonable theory:

"Hes winning 74 percent of the GOP vote already, and can probably go to at least 85 percent, which basically means he only needs to win 75 percent of the remaining undecided Republicans. This will probably be doable," Lee said.

Lee calculates that since independents are breaking narrowly for Scott, the Republican gets to 51 percent of the total vote if he wins just 52 percent of the remaining independents.

Sink's hopes lie in higher turnout, particularly in the media markets that comprise South Florida, where shes winning 51/36, and Southeast Florida in particular where shes winning 59/27.

"This is really the only area where she is leading," Lee said.

Scott is winning Central Florida 49/34, and, surprisingly, in Sink's home base of the Tampa Bay media market, where he leads 47/41.

The Republican holds a commanding lead in the North (49/38) and his home base of Southwest Florida (56/33).

Though Sink is favored by female voters, her 45/41 edge remains close within the margin of error while Scott leads among men, 47/40.

"Females tend to vote more Democratic, so you would think shed be winning by a bigger margin," Lee observed.

"A good comparison race is that in Pennsylvania: Our statewide poll last week in the open seat for governor shows the Democratic nominee Dan Onorato up by 4 points among females, whereas among males the GOP candidate Tom Corbett is winning 53/36.

"So Sink doesnt appear to be getting any more than the traditional vote Democrats usually get among females," Lee said.

The VSS poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.09 percent.


Contact Kenric Ward at or at (772) 801-5341.

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