A new poll from Quinnipiac University released Thursday has state CFO Alex Sink, the likely Democratic nominee, ahead of both of the Republicans in the gubernatorial race and has independent Gov. Charlie Crist ahead of Republican Marco Rubio and both of the leading Democrats in the U.S. Senate contest.
The pollshows Sink with 31 percent, Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum with 29 percent and independent Bud Chiles with 12 percent. When McCollum was replaced as the Republican nominee, Sink had 33 percent, Scott 29 percent and Chiles still had 12 percent.
Once the primary is over, the race for governor will be one to define Alex Sink for the majority of Floridians who dont know enough about her to have an opinion, said Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The poll certainly bears that out. While Sink was seen in favorable terms by 30 percent, as opposed to 15 percent unfavorable, most Floridians did not know enough about her to have an impression. She remained unknown to 53 percent of Floridians, including 44 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents.
One would expect the Republican nominee will attempt to define who Alex Sink is for the people of Florida, said Brown.
While Scott and McCollum have bombarded each other with attack ads, so far in the campaign there have been few attacks on Sink.
Sink has benefited from all those negative ads, Brown told the media in Tallahassee on Thursday.
Despite the millions that McCollum and Scott have spent in bashing each other, the poll found Sink had not risen that much compared to the last poll released July 30. In that poll, McCollum led Sink 27 to 26 and Scott was ahead 29 to 27. Her jump has not been that large, said Brown.
Once the primary is over, the race for governor will be one to define Alex Sink for the majority of Floridians who dont know enough about her to have an opinion, said Brown.
With all the negative ads flying in the Republican primary, both of the GOP hopefuls have high unfavorable numbers. McCollum was seenfavorably by 33 percent and unfavorably by 43 percent. Scott was viewed favorably by 28 percent and unfavorably by 40 percent.
Chiles drew slightly more from Democrats than Republicans but did best among independent voters. He remained unknown to most Floridians -- a whopping 70 percent did not know enough about him, compared to 15 percent who saw him favorably and 12 percent unfavorably.
At this point its not clear whether independent Bud Chiles will be a force in November, said Brown. His numbers have ticked down since his announcement, but he is getting one in eight voters and that is nothing to sneeze at.
In the Senate race, Crist took 39 percent in the poll with Rubio in second with 32 percent. U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek pulled a distant third with 16 percent if he is the Democratic nominee. When Jeff Greene replaced Meek as the Democrat in the race, Crist took 40 percent, Rubio remained at 32 percent and Greene trailed behind with 15 percent.
Helping propel Crist into the lead was the governors approval numbers, with 56 percent backing his tenure as governor and 35 percent disapproving. This included 68 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents approving Crists job as governor.
Almost any governor in America would kill for that job approval rating in the midst of the worst recession in decades, said Brown.
Crist was also beating both Greene and Meek among Democrats. Crist pulled 45 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of independents, while Meek took 36 percent of Democrats and 10 percent of independents. Crist walloped Greene, taking 51 percent of Democrats while the billionaire took 31 percent of his own party. Crist took 48 percent of independents while Greene pulled 10 percent, the same as Meek.
Crist is getting more support from Democrats than either Greene or Meek, said Brown. The key for Crist will be whether he can hold this many Democrats once the partys nomination is settled and keep his half of the independent votes.
Brown said these numbers bode well for Crists ambitions. If Charlie Crist gets 40 percent of the Democratic vote, hes going to win, said Brown.
Brown predicted that whoever emerges in the Democratic primary will have to start going after Crist. They dont have a choice, he said. They have to knock down Crists numbers, especially among Democrats.
With Crist leading the Democratic candidates in the southeastern part of the state, Brown would not be surprised to see whoever the nominee is playing up ties to political figures popular among Florida Democrats -- much like Meek is doing in the last week of the primary.
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will be very helpful to the Democratic nominee, said Brown, who added that bringing in the base will the be thefirst task for whomever wins between Meek and Greene.
Making the Democrats task even harder was how the poll showed they were viewed. Meek was seen as favorable by 25 percent and unfavorable by 26 percent while Greene did worse -- 18 percent favorable and 31 percent unfavorable. Rubios favorable numbers were better: 35 percent with 28 percent unfavorable.
The poll of 1,096 Floridians, taken between Aug. 11-16, had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent. Check out the poll results from these and other races in our Numbers section.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.