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Mitt Romney Leads Rick Perry Among Florida Republicans

September 27, 2011 - 6:00pm

Public Policy Polling, a firm with connections to prominent Democrats at the national level, released a poll on Wednesday that found former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts is leading the Republican presidential pack in Florida.

Romney topped the poll with 30 percent while former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas placed second in the Sunshine State with 24 percent. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress, took third with 10 percent.

The rest of the field followed in single digits. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas took fourth place with 8 percent, followed by businessman Herman Cain, who won the Presidency 5 straw poll in Orlando on Saturday, with 7 percent. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota placed sixth with 6 percent, followed by former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah who has based his campaign in Orlando. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennyslvania took 2 percent and former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico trailed with 1 percent.

Florida is probably the most important state to Mitt Romneys hopes for winning the Republican nomination, said PPP President Dean Debnam in a statement on Wednesday. The fact that hes still leading there even after Perrys surge nationally bodes very well.

PPP polled the favorablity ratings of five of the leading contenders in the Sunshine State and Romney had the highest numbers with 65 percent of those surveyed seeing him as favorable and 22 percent as unfavorable. Fifty-nine percent viewed Gingrich in a favorable light while 29 percent saw him as unfavorable. Perry did slightly worse with 54 percent seeing him as favorable while 31 percent thought he was unfavorable.

Florida Republicans split on Bachmann, with 39 percent seeing her as favorable and 37 viewing her as unfavorable. Paul was upside down with Sunshine State Republicans. Only 33 percent viewed the Texas congressman as favorable while 45 percent viewed him as unfavorable.

The poll confirmed the results of a Quinnipiac University poll released last week that found most Florida Republicans were undecided in the race to see who will challenge Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012. In both polls, 58 percent of those surveyed were undecided.

Retired Army officer and businessman Mike McCalister garnered 17 percent followed by former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux with 13 percent. Former House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who won a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event in Orlando on Friday, took 9 percent followed by Central Florida businessman Craig Miller with 3 percent.

LeMieux was the best known of the four Senate candidates, but 71 percent had no opinion of him despite his 16 months in the U.S. Senate. Fifteen percent of those surveyed said they had a favorable opinion of LeMieux while 14 percent saw him as unfavorable. Nine percent had a favorable view of McCalister, while 7 percent saw him as unfavorable. Seven percent saw Hasner in a favorable light, while 10 percent viewed him unfavorably. Miller was the least known candidate, with 5 percent seeing him as favorable and 7 percent as unfavorable.

PPP also found U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio remains very popular with Florida Republicans, with 80 percent approving of him and only 7 percent disapproving of the freshman senator.

Despite a bloody primary with then-Attorney General Bill McCollum in 2010, Gov. Rick Scott won the approval of 59 percent of Florida Republicans while 26 percent disapproved of his performance in Tallahassee. Scott also led a generic Republican primary opponent, taking 53 percent while his opponent garnered 37 percent.

The poll of 472 usual Florida Republican primary voters was taken from Sept. 22-25 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent.

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

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