As the last voters make their way to voting booths Tuesday, a Sunshine State News Poll of the previously tick-tight gubernatorial race shows Rick Scott leading Alex Sink in pull-away fashion, 49-45 among likely voters, and 50-44 among those with an excellent chance of voting.
The statewide poll of 1,526 likely voters was conducted Oct. 31 - Nov. 1.
Jim Lee, president of Voter Survey Service of Harrisburg, Pa., which conducts all Sunshine State News Polls, explained Tuesday morning that even though "Scott has to be considered the favorite," Sink is still in with a chance.
Among all those who voted early, Lee said, the candidates are virtually split (47-47). So, if Scott doesnt lead in early votes, hes still not in the clear.
Getting away from the daily tracking surveys, which tend to be over-analyzed because on most days leads for both candidates usually fell within the margin of error, and looking instead at the long-term view from the first Labor Day poll to the current one, the aggregate of polls shows this: Scott has increased 7 points, from 42 percent, while Sink has increased only 1 percent, from 44 percent.
Even more telling is that Scotts positive name ID has increased dramatically from the Labor Day poll, where he now has a net +1 positive rating (46 percent favorable to 45 percent unfavorable). Thats a 16-point jump in positive name ID from his inverted 46-30 ratio in September.
Meanwhile, Sink, who is upside down at 42-49 fav/unfav, has gone in the opposite direction. Her negatives have climbed a staggering 21 points since September, while her positives have only grown 7 points.
This is very significant, Lee said, because it shows a clear shift in momentum to Scott, and that Scott has largely succeeded in rehabilitating his weak image after the bruising battle with (Attorney General Bill) McCollum.
This is particularly true with Republicans, where he has gone from a 49-28 ratio in favorable/unfavorable name ID in September, to a 75-20 ratio in the current poll. Thats a 26-point jump.
Rick Scott spokesman Joe Kildea was cautiously optimistic after learning the poll results. "This is going to be a very close race," he said, "but this poll shows that as voters approach Election Day, they trust Rick Scott to be the candidate to create jobs, not Obama liberal Alex Sink."
The key for Scott to win, polling experts agree, is to hold his base and to not get killed with independents. Currently, Scott is winning Republicans 80-14, which could be enough, given the enthusiasm gap that favors the higher turnout among GOP voters this year.
Plus, said Lee, even though independents have a largely unfavorable opinion of Scott he has a negative 52-36 margin hes only losing by a 48-40 margin to Sink. And thats essentially a dead heat, because its within the margin of error.
Ed Moore, president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida and a noted political analyst, believes media reporting of the early voting for the last two weeks has been benefiting Scott.
Its usually the Democrats who vote early, Moore said. Not this time. Thats why youve seen so many get-out-the-vote efforts among the Democrats the last week. You have to look at whats happening and see a Republican advantage.
A spokesperson at Sinks campaign headquarters declined comment on the poll.
Regionally, the poll still shows Scott with big margins in the North, Sink leading in the South, and Central Florida still neck-and-neck, although Scott leads narrowly, 49-44 a statistical tossup.
The Sunshine State News Poll's margin of error is +/- 2.51 percent.
For a look at the polls crosstabs, click below.
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