Brutal Primaries Could Help Boost Crist, Sink in November
Independent U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Crist and the leading Democrat running to replace him as governor, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, could benefit in November from bitter primaries being waged this summer, a poll released Friday suggests.
Buoyed by low-polling Democrats Jeff Greene and Kendrick Meek and his high profile during the Gulf oil spill crisis, Crist appears to be maintaining his lead in a three-way race for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University’s latest poll.
Sink is tied with either Republican in the race to replace Crist in the Governor’s Mansion.
The university surveyed 969 voters and found Crist topping presumptive Republican nominee Marco Rubio and either Democrat in the race. Crist led Rubio in the Senate race 37-32 percent. His job approval rating as governor was 53 percent, and 49 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of him.
Democratic frontrunner Jeff Greene drew 17 percent against Crist and Rubio, while U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek drew 13 percent.
“Gov. Charlie Crist’s small lead comes as neither Democrat breaks 20 percent in the trial heats,” Quinnipiac Polling Director Peter Brown said. “If that were to be the case in November, Gov. Crist would have a very good chance to win. But if the Democratic nominee can move into the mid-to-high 20s, Crist’s chances decrease substantially.”
The same trend also appears to be happening in the governor’s race, where Sink appears to be gaining momentum as Scott and McCollum pound each other ahead of their Aug. 24 primary. Sink leads Republican frontrunner Rick Scott 29 percent to 27 percent, with no-party candidate Lawton “Bud” Chiles drawing 14 percent. If McCollum is the GOP nominee, he draws 27 percent to Sink’s 26 percent, with Chiles remaining at 14 percent. Both spreads are within the poll’s 3.2 percent margin of error.
Sink once trailed McCollum in Quinnipiac polls by double-digits. The turnaround has as much to do with Scott and McCollum as it does with the CFO, Brown said.
“The governor’s race is now a dead-heat, not because Ms. Sink’s numbers have gone up, but because the Republican numbers have come down,” he said. “That’s because the Republican candidates have been shooting at each other.”
But while Democrats have worked to marginalize no-party candidate Lawton “Bud” Chiles since he entered the race, the son of the legendary former Democratic governor and senator held steady in match-ups with Sink and either Republican. That’s presumably support that might otherwise go to Sink as the Democratic nominee.
Additionally, Sink is still not well-known throughout the state, despite being in the governor’s race for more than a year. Fifty-eight percent of the poll’s respondents said they did not know enough about her to form an opinion.
After the primary, Sink will likely try to better introducer herself to voters, Brown said. Whether her opponent is able to help craft people’s opinions of her may depend on who it is.
“Obviously, if Mr. Scott wins the nomination, the assumption is that he has cash on hand to do whatever he wants, as far as television advertising,” Brown continued. “Mr. McCollum obviously is in a different situation financially.”
McCollum revealed in a legal battle to preserve the state's public campaign financing law that his hotly-contested primary with Scott had dwindled his resources to only $800,000. Scott, a multi-millionaire largely self-financing his campaign, sued to have the public financing throw out because he has neared the $24.9 million spending cap that would grant McCollum matching dollars.
Quinnipiac also polled on the constitutional oil drilling ban that was the subject of the recent special legislative session, finding that the amendment that lawmakers scoffed at is popular with voters. Sixty-two percent of the poll’s respondents said they favored the idea of a constitutional drilling ban, and an even higher 72 percent said there should at least be a vote.
President Barack Obama’s job approval rating in Florida ticked up in the poll, from 40 percent in June to 46 percent. But a majority of voters, 50 percent, still disapprove of his performance, which could hinder his ability to campaign for Democratic candidates in Florida this fall.