Politics

Poll: Will Early Votes Put Rick Scott Over The Top?

Poll shows independents, Central Florida turning toward Sink; Rubio locks down Senate race
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: November 1, 2010 4:05 AM
Rick-Scott-Alex-Sink-Charlie-Crist-Kendrick-Meek-Jeff-Atwater-Loranne-Ausley-Pam-Mondi-Dan-Gelber-Adam-Putnam-Scott-Maddox-Sunshine State News Poll
On election eve, Democrat Alex Sink holds a 3-point lead over Republican Rick Scott in the Florida gubernatorial contest, and Republican Marco Rubio is running away with the U.S. Senate race, a new Sunshine State News Poll shows.

Rick Scott and Alex Sink - Sunshine State News Poll Table
The latest tracking poll, concluded Sunday, found Sink leading Scott 49-46, with 5 percent supporting neither candidate and less than 1 percent undecided.

"Sink appears to now have taken a solid lead among independents, something neither candidate has been able to accomplish to this point," said Jim Lee, president of Voter Survey Service which conducted the polls.

"Sink leads independents by a 56-34 margin, which is statistically significant, compared to a more narrow 47-36 lead back in the first post-primary poll taken over Labor Day. Given the closeness in the race, this could be the deciding factor," Lee said.

Scott, meantime, is having trouble locking down his party base. Six percent of Republican respondents said they favor one of the minor-party or unaligned candidates, compared with only 3 percent of Democrats.

"If some of this vote goes back to Scott, it could keep him in the game," Lee projected.

Sink and Scott have swapped leads several times since Sunshine State News' nightly surveys began Oct. 16. Neither candidate has had a margin of more than 3 points. Overall, each candidate has gained 3 percentage points over the past two weeks.

Charlie Crist-Marco Rubio-Kendrick Meek-Sunshine State News Poll Table 10-31
In the Senate poll, Rubio garnered 48 percent, with independent Charlie Crist at 31 percent and Democrat Kendrick Meek getting 20 percent.

Rubio and Crist recorded their highest numbers in the weekend poll, while Meek fell 4 points from the 24 percent he had a week ago. During that period, reports variously ascribed to Crist and former President Bill Clinton surfaced that the Miami congressman had considered dropping out of the race.

Neither the Crist nor Meek campaigns responded to Sunshine State News' requests for comment. Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos declined comment.

In the governor's race, Sink apparently has flipped the key battleground of Central Florida in her favor.

"We concluded earlier in the season that Central Florida was the key 'swing' area, recognizing that Scott would rack up big margins in the North and Sink would do the same in the South," Lee said.

"The current poll shows that Central Florida now leans toward Sink by a 50-45 margin, which is a reversal from a 44-42 narrow Scott lead in early September," he reported.

But with a substantial Republican lead in early voting and absentee balloting, Scott cannot be counted out, Lee says.

"Among all those who say they voted early, Scott is winning by a 50-44 margin, so there is a case to be made that for many people the race was decided two weeks ago when the GOP ticket may have peaked due to higher enthusiasm.

"So even though Sink appears to be getting some separation late in the game, these early votes for Scott could still put him over the top.

"This race really has all the makings of a 51-49 election for either candidate," Lee said.

The volatility and evident fluidity of the costly contest was further highlighted this weekend when The New York Times released a poll showing Scott in the lead, 44-39. The Oct. 23-27 survey reported 11 percent still undecided and 6 percent saying they would not vote for either major party candidate.

Sink's current margin in the Sunshine State News Poll matches her 3-point lead on Oct. 28-29, Oct. 21-22 and Oct. 15-17. Scott's 47-45 advantage on Oct. 24-25 was his largest. The two were deadlocked 46-46 on Oct. 26-27.

The other statewide contests do not look nearly as climactic, because GOP candidates maintain significant leads for all other Cabinet-level positions.

Pam Bondi and Dan Gelber -- Sunshine State News Poll Table 10-31
Republican attorney general candidate Pam Bondi is carrying Central Florida 53-43 over her Democratic rival Dan Gelber -- showing that voters in the region are splitting their tickets between Bondi and Sink.

Overall, Bondi leads Gelber 52-43 -- the same 8-point margin she held when nightly polling began.

Adam Putnam, Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, has built a healthy 51-37 advantage over Democrat Scott Maddox -- a net gain of 12 points over the past two weeks.

And Republican Jeff Atwater is beating Democrat Loranne Ausley 52-40, the poll shows. Each candidate gained 2 percentage points since polling began, while "other" and "undecided" totals shrank.
Adam Putnam and Scott Maddox -- Sunshine State News Poll Table 10-31


Commenting on the governor's race, Brian Crowley, editor of the Crowley Political Report, said, "Sink is benefiting from many months of questions about Scott's integrity. While Scott won the primary, Bill McCollum did a good job of raising doubts about Scott and Sink has continued to raise the same questions.

"Scott has failed to do a good job of telling the 'Rick Scott story,' so voters are left trying to figure out who Scott really is. This could cause problems with swing voters who need to feel they can trust the person they are going to vote for," Crowley said.

Jeff Atwater and Loranne Ausley -- Sunshine State News Poll Table 10-31

Seth McKee, a political science professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, called Scott the "weakest candidate" on the statewide GOP slate, but said, "Given such a Republican climate this year, he may barely cross the finish line. It will be an amazing story if Sink wins."

Scott campaign spokesman Joe Kildea said, "We always knew this would be a close race, and this series of polls underscores that. On Tuesday, as Floridians go to the polls, Sink's ties to (President Barack) Obama and her record of dishonesty will disqualify her in voters' minds."

The Sink campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Sunshine State News Poll of 1,527 likely voters has a margin of error of +/- 2.49 percent.

For a look at the poll's crosstabs, click on the link below.

--

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.



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