A poll released by Quinnipiac University Wednesday finds that the tide has turned in the favor of politicians running against wealthy businessmen in both the Republican gubernatorial primary and the contest for the Democratic U.S. Senate nod.
The poll had Attorney General Bill McCollum ahead of health-care executive Rick Scott for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. McCollum pulled 44 percent with Scott at 35 percent -- a reversal of the poll released at the end of July that had Scott ahead by 43 to 32 percent. The poll found 19 percent of Republicans remained undecided and that 32 percent of those who backed either of the candidates could change their mind.
However, in a Sunshine State News Poll also released Wednesday McCollum trails Scott 44 to 42 percent -- a statistical tie. That poll was conducted by Voter Survey Service of Harrisburg, Pa. Aug. 12-15. It involved 1,000 likely GOP voters.
The Quinnipiac poll also had U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek ahead of Jeff Greene for the Democratic nomination in the Senate race. Meek carried 35 percent and Greene took 28 percent. Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre placed third with 6 percent. Again, this is a reversal of the poll Quinnipiac took at the end of July which had Greene ahead of Meek by 33 to 23 percent.
On Monday, a Sunshine State News Poll showed Meek ahead of Greene by 15 percentage points.
Essentially the establishment still lives in Florida politics, said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute to the media on Wednesday. Whats happening is the party elders weighed in and they obviously have clout within their own parties.
Brown said that the Republican Party establishment --including former Gov. Jeb Bush who remains very popular in the GOP -- ia rallying around McCollum, as well as a number of attack ads against Scott, put the attorney general back in the lead.
Brown added that women voters who favor McCollum over Scott by a 48-31 margin may want to back a candidate with political experience. Women tend to be more risk-adverse than men, said Brown.
While there has been much speculation about how Hispanic voters view Scott and McCollum due to their support for bringing an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida, Brown said his poll did not have a large enough sample to offer any insight on the matter.
Both McCollum and Scott were viewed as more favorable than unfavorable by Republican primary voters. McCollum was seen in a favorable light by 45 percent of Republicans while 30 percent viewed him unfavorably -- far outpacing Scott who was seen favorably by 34 percent and unfavorably by 33 percent.
The Scott camp responded on the Quinnipiac poll as well as the Sunshine State News Poll released Wednesday morning.
As todays independent Sunshine State News Poll and others show, the race is tightening, but despite the support of the entire GOP establishment and the laundered money from the Tallahassee special-interest insiders, Bill McCollum still hasnt been able to overcome his record as a career politician of raising taxes, abusing the state airplane, raising his pay and covering up for his political mentor Jim Greer, said Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for Scott, in a statement.
Just like the GOP establishment in states like Kentucky and Colorado underestimated the power of the conservative outsider, much of the Florida establishment is also underestimating voter turnout, Baker added.
Brown also thought the party establishment was helping Meek in the Democratic battle, but he also was relying on attacks against Greene.
Meek has campaigned with former President Bill Clinton, said Brown. He has also put two matters in the minds of Democratic primary voters -- that Greene once ran for office as a Republican, and that he made billions betting homeowners would default on their mortgages.
Meek far outpaced Greene in terms of favorability. While 36 percent of Democratic primary voters viewed Meek favorably, 23 percent saw him unfavorably. Response to Greene was the other way up -- being seen as favorable by 25 percent with 36 percent viewing him unfavorably.
Quinnipiac will release another poll on Thursday, focusing on the general election.
The poll of 807 Republicans conducted between Aug. 11-16 had a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent. The poll of 814 Democrats taken over the same period had a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.