Saturday, July 31, 2010

Governor Surges Into Lead in Race For U.S. Senate

Published: Friday, July 30, 2010 at 11:54 p.m. Last Modified: Friday, July 30, 2010 at 11:54 p.m.

Crist, whose independent campaign seemed in jeopardy before switching parties in May, has jumped ahead of former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, a Republican, and both of the Democrats battling in a primary on Aug. 24.

Regardless of whether billionaire Jeff Greene or Congressman Kendrick Meek wins the primary, neither gets even 17 percent of the vote in a three-way contest with Crist and Rubio, according to results from The Florida Poll.

Assuming Meek wins his primary and is in the race, Crist leads Rubio with 41 percent of the vote to Rubio's 30 percent, with 12 percent going to Meek, according to the poll of 590 likely voters surveyed from July 24 to July 28. Crist wins over Rubio by eight points if Greene gets the Democratic nomination.

Assuming Greene wins the Democratic primary, however, changes things.

The Florida Poll was conducted by New York Times-owned Florida newspapers, including The Ledger, and the University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland.

Crist's improving political situation is mirrored in other polls, including a Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey released Friday that similarly shows Crist moving ahead of Rubio.

In that poll, Crist leads the three-way race for the U.S. Senate seat with 37 percent to Rubio's 32 percent. Greene is at 17 percent in the Quinnipiac poll. If Meek wins the nomination, Crist's lead jumps to six per cent lead over Rubio.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 969 Florida voters from July 22 to July 27. The margin of error is 3.2 percentage points.

Republicans have tried to label Crist's abandoning the Republican Party to run as an independent as an act of political desperation. But for voters like Sarah Cross of Sarasota the move is being received more as an act of defiance to the political status quo. Cross, a Democrat, said Crist's move showed political bravery at a time when most politicians just go along to get along.

When Crist was running as a Republican, I never was going to vote for him," Cross said. "Once he had done something like that to put his own future at risk, I thought he really is trying to do the right thing.

Barbara Abowitt, a retired teacher who lives in Bradenton, had a similar view. She said Crist's switch showed he was willing to stand up to his party, not just in leaving the Republicans but also in vetoing legislation like Senate Bill 6, the teacher tenure bill.

He was willing to buck his party," said Abowitt, who calls herself an independent voter.

Robert Rippe, 52, of Lakeland disagreed with Cross and Abowitt. A Republican who said he will vote for Rubio in the general election, Rippe said Crist has been disloyal to the people who voted for him in the past.

Now that he has left the Republican Party he seems to be more liberal and probably was all the time," Rippe said. "So if he had been elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican, he probably would not have held to Republican values.

The poll is troubling news for both Democrats in the race for the U.S. Senate. Forty-six percent of the Democrats surveyed were undecided or could not give an answer to which Democrat they would support in the Aug. 24 primary.

The unknown factor grows even greater when Democrats were asked whether they had a favorable opinion of either Meek or Greene. Sixty-one percent of the Democrats said they did not know enough about Meek to have an opinion, while 55 percent said the same thing about Greene.


The Florida Poll survey was conducted by telephone July 24-28 from the campus of the University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland.
Overall results are from 590 registered voters who were determined to be likely voters.

The telephone numbers used in the survey were identified at random by a computer programmed to ensure each area of the state was represented in proportion to its population and to include numbers from listed and unlisted land lines and cell phones.

The results from the survey have a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points.

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