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Poll: Chiles Torpedoes the Sink Campaign

A three way gubernatorial contest could doom state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's chances to win the governor's race, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

The survey pits likely Democratic nominee Alex Sink against independent Bud Chiles and each of the two major Republican candidates, Attorney General Bill McCollum and South Florida businessman Rick Scott. And none of the results look good for Sink, with Chiles' candidacy likely to siphon some Democratic voters from her.

In a Sink-Chiles-McCollum race, Sink wins 25 percent of the vote, Chiles takes 19 percent and McCollum carries 33 percent of the vote, according to the poll. In a Sink-Chiles-Scott match up, Sink takes 26 percent, Chiles carries 13 percent and Scott wins with 35 percent.

“If Bud Chiles gets 20 percent of the vote in November, it makes it more difficult for Ms. Sink to win the election,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Anything's possible. Obviously, whoever the Republican nominee is is less likely to lose votes to Bud Chiles than Ms. Sink is based on what we know about the candidates at this point.”

The poll surveyed 1,133 voters from June 1 through June 7 and has a margin of error of 2.9 percent. Chiles announced his candidacy midway through the Quinnipiac survey, so only 435 voters were polled on a three-way candidacy and the margin of error increased to 4.7 percent.

The Chiles campaign immediately capitalized on the poll results arguing that it showed how strong a campaign the son of former Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles can mount against Sink and the potential Republican nominee.

”I’m proud that the Chiles name still resonates among Floridians,” Chiles said in the release.

But overall, the whole slate of gubernatorial candidates is facing name recognition problems. Even McCollum and Sink, who have held statewide office for the past few years, are still unknowns to many voters. According to the poll, 32 percent of those surveyed haven't heard enough about McCollum and 56 percent have not heard enough about Sink.

Forty-six percent of those surveyed said they didn't know enough about Scott and 81 percent said they don’t know enough about Chiles to have much of an opinion.

“Bud Chiles is pretty much unknown to most Floridians, but he has a magic name obviously and certainly that has some advantage,” Brown said. “It will take a while to see how that shakes out given the way that Mr. Chiles has talked and his political inclinations. Based on his positions, one would think he would be a bigger threat to Alex Sink than he would be to the Republican nominee, whether that is Rick Scott or Bill McCollum.”

The poll's other biggest topic – the U.S. Senate contest – showed a fairly even race between independent Gov. Charlie Crist and Republican Marco Rubio, with Crist taking 37 percent and Rubio winning 33 percent. If U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, is the Democratic nominee, he would get 17 percent of the vote, according to the poll.

The numbers slightly differ if Jeff Greene wins the Democratic nomination, giving Crist a larger lead over Rubio. In a Greene-Crist-Rubio contest, Crist beats Rubio 40 percent to 33 percent with 14 percent for Greene, the poll found.

“Obviously the way that Gov. Crist is running in terms of what he's talking about and what he's saying, he's trying to appeal to Democratic voters and what we're seeing here is he's doing a pretty good job,” Brown said.

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