Rick Scott Opens Commanding Lead Over Bill McCollum
A statewide media blitz by gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott, a political unknown until a few months ago, has catapulted the South Florida businessman to the front of the race, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
Scott, who announced his candidacy for governor in April, is leading Attorney General Bill McCollum among likely Republican primary voters 44 percent to 31 percent, according to the poll, which surveyed 814 likely GOP primary voters with a margin of error of 3.4 percent. A separate poll released earlier this week also showed Scott leading likely Democratic nominee Alex Sink if the general election were held today.
“It would be naive not to understand that has a lot to do with television,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “There's nothing wrong with that. That's how the game is played.”
Scott's campaign has thus far relied on the candidate's deep pockets to flood the airwaves with a massive television ad campaign to introduce him to the public. He has aired biographical commercials plus ones that specifically target immigration and health care issues. He's also tried to position himself as an outsider in what is perceived an anti-incumbent year where many long time politicians are being booted from office.
“Rick’s conservative outsider message of fiscal responsibility, smaller government and accountability to taxpayers is clearly resonating with voters,” said Scott spokesman Jennifer Baker in a press release.
McCollum may be suffering from a low-key approach so far, even some of his supporters acknowledge.
McCollum has had a minor television presence with its most prominent feature being an ad in which McCollum is largely the secondary character, overshadowed by former Gov. Jeb Bush who is endorsing McCollum in the ad.
"I don't think Bill (McCollum) is known for shucking and jiving and being the life of the cocktail party," said Mac Stipanovich, a McCollum supporter who has served as a campaign advisor for Republican candidates including former Gov. Bob Martinez and Gov. Charlie Crist. "But voters still don't really know much about Scott."
Quinnipiac has found that a relatively high portion of the electorate say they don't know enough about either candidate. According to the poll, 36 percent of likely GOP primary voters surveyed haven't heard enough about McCollum and 46 percent said they didn't know enough about Scott.
Stipanovich said other polls he had seen put the two in a virtual dead heat but that he expects Scott's support to erode when voters learn more about his controversial business background.
Scott, who lives in Naples, is the former chief executive of Columbia/HCA health care, and quit the company under pressure from its board as a fraud investigation loomed in the 1990s, but he was never charged.
In a separate race also featuring a virtual political unknown, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, and Palm Beach millionaire Jeff Greene are in a statistical dead heat for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, according to the poll, which surveyed 785 likely Democratic primary voters and had a margin of error of 3.5 percent..
The poll put Meek at 29 percent and Greene at 27 percent; however, both are still unknown to many Floridians with 59 percent saying they don't know enough about Meek and 64 percent saying they don't know enough about Greene.