Bill McCollum's troubles continue. That's the word from the inaugural Sunshine State News Poll that shows Rick Scott holding a commanding 44 to 28 percent lead over the attorney general in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
With just three weeks until Election Day, and early voting beginning next week, Scott is beating McCollum in every demographic and geographic category of likely GOP voters, said Jim Lee, president of Voter Survey Service of Harrisburg, Pa., which conducted the survey.
"Most startlingly is the 50 percent negative number for McCollum. That's a very huge red flag and suggests very little room to grow. You never want to have that going into an election," Lee said.
The VSS survey, commissioned by Sunshine State News and conducted July 26-30, builds on results of an earlier Quinnipiac Poll that showed Scott holding an 11-point lead over McCollum. The Sunshine State News Poll is the largest sampling of likely voters -- 1,345 -- of any poll so far taken for a 2010 statewide election in Florida.
VSS found Scott's support particularly strong among men, who back him 49 to 25 percent. Women favor him by 38-32 -- the closest margin of any category surveyed.
"Men tend to be more fiscally conservative," Lee explained. "There's also concern about McCollum's ties to (Gov.) Charlie Crist."
In terms of age, Scott runs strongest among GOP voters under 60. He leads McCollum by 15 to 20 points among respondents from that group. He is up 10 points among seniors.
Among the most dedicated Republican voters -- those who cast ballots in the 2006 or 2008 primaries and who said their chances of voting in this primary are "excellent" -- Scott holds a seemingly insurmountable 45-29 lead over McCollum.
"Scott has succeeded in defining Bill McCollum as not viable," Lee said. "The only way for McCollum to win is to go nuclear on Scott and increase his negatives."
But even with that, the pollster said McCollum's sky-high negatives make it "unlikely" that the 28 percent of undecided voters will break for him.
Responding to questions about the results, the Scott campaign suggested it is already looking ahead to the general election.
"Poll after poll shows that Floridians prefer an outsider with a positive message and a clear plan to create jobs," spokesman Joe Kildea said. "After winning his first debate against career politician Bill McCollum, RIck Scott has the momentum and support as the obvious choice to take on Alex Sink as she tries to bring (President Barack) Obama's liberal agenda to Florida."
VSS, an independent polling company which is a division of Susquehanna Polling & Research, questioned 1,345 likely Republican voters across Florida. The poll's margin of error is 2.67 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
Wednesdays Sunshine State News Poll story will offer a snapshot of the three-way GOP attorney general contest that includes Holly Benson, Pam Bondi and Jeff Kottkamp.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 559-4719.