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Bill Nelson and Connie Mack Running Tight in New PPP Poll

July 31, 2012 - 6:00pm

Public Policy Polling (PPP), a firm with connections to prominent national Democrats, released a poll on Wednesday showing that Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson can expect a fight in Florida from likely Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Connie Mack.

The poll of likely Florida voters shows Nelson taking 45 percent while Mack is right behind him within the margin of error at 43 percent. A poll of likely Florida voters taken by Quinnipac University released earlier in the day showed Nelson taking 47 percent with Mack following with 40 percent.

The Florida Senate race is starting to look very competitive, said Dean Debnam, the president of PPP, on Wednesday. The stream of attack ads against Bill Nelson is taking a toll on his image.

Nelson does slightly better against other contenders for the Republican nomination who remain mostly unknown. Matched up against businessman and retired Army officer Mike McCalister, Nelson takes 45 percent while the Republican garners 40 percent. Nelson does best when pitted against former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon. In that scenario, Nelson takes 46 percent while Weldon garners 39 percent.

Despite his four decades on the Florida political stage, Nelson is upside down in the poll. While 35 percent approve of him, 40 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the senator who is now seeking his third term.

The Republicans do not fare much better, though they remain largely unknown. Mack is seen as favorable by 25 percent, unfavorable by 35 percent and 40 percent are not sure what they think of the Republican congressman. Despite his seven terms in the U.S. House, 73 percent are not sure about Weldon while 9 percent see him in a favorable light and 18 percent view him unfavorably. McCalister is also largely unknown, despite his bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010 when he took more than 10 percent of the vote. While 72 percent are not sure about McCalister, 9 percent view him favorably and 19 percent see him as unfavorable.

The poll of 871 likely Florida voters was taken from July 26-29 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percent.

PPP looked at the Republican primary on Aug. 14 and found Mack with a healthy lead over his rivals. Mack takes 47 percent of usual Republican primary voters while Weldon places second with 14 percent and McCalister follows with 10 percent. While 6 percent say they back other candidates in the race, the rest remain undecided with less than two weeks until the primary contest.

Mack is seen as favorable by 44 percent of usual Republican primary voters while 22 percent see him as unfavorable. Weldon and McCalister remain unknown to most of the Republicans surveyed. More than three quarters of the Republicans surveyed -- 76 percent -- are not sure about Weldon while 13 percent see him favorably and 11 percent see him as unfavorable. McCalister is even more unknown with 11 percent seeing him in a favorable light, the same percentage viewing him as unfavorable and the rest of the Republicans surveyed not sure about him.

The poll of 500 usual Republican primary voters was taken from July 26-29 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent.

Reach Kevin Derby at or at (850) 727-0859.

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