According to a poll Quinnipiac University released on Thursday morning, two outsiders with backgrounds in business instead of politics have shaken up Floridas political landscape.
The poll found that health care executive Rick Scott now leads longtime Republican front-runner Attorney General Bill McCollum in the gubernatorial race by a 13-point margin. The poll also found that U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who had been considered the front-runner for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination for more than a year, was in the fight for his life against billionaire investor Jeff Greene.
Around the country, challengers to so-called career politicians seem to be doing well, and these showings by Scott and Greene certainly fit very well into that trend, said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The poll found Scott leading Attorney General Bill McCollum in the Republican primary 44 percent to 31 percent, while 24 percent didn't know who they would be supporting.
Scotts aggressive media campaign, estimated so far to have cost around $11 million, has helped propel the health care executive ahead of McCollum, who has more than three decades of experience in Florida politics.
The poll found that both Scott and McCollum have made solid impressions on Florida Republicans. Scott was seen favorably by 40 percent and unfavorably by 12 percent. McCollum was seen favorably by 41 percent of Florida Republicans, while 19 percent had an unfavorable view of the attorney general.
Attacks on Scotts tenure in charge of Columbia/HCA from the Florida Democratic Party have reinforced the perception that the race has changed dramatically.
What Rick Scott doesn't understand is that running for governor of Florida during the worst economic crisis our state has ever faced requires more than lip service and excuses about his record as a disgraced executive, wrote Eric Jotkoff, communications director for the Florida Democratic Party, in an e-mail to supporters on Thursday. There's a big difference between fraud or multiple employees being indicted and a few mistakes, and a big difference between ethical leadership and hiding behind never being charged. To put it simply: Fraud is not a mistake.
The poll also found that Jeff Greene, who has also invested a substantial part of his fortune into the campaign, has caught up with Congressman Meek in the U.S. Senate race. The poll had Meek with 29 percent, Greene at 27 percent and former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre trailing far behind in third place with 3 percent.
Meek was considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for the past year, with several strong candidates -- including Sen. Dan Gelber, D-North Miami, and former North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns -- leaving the U.S. Senate race to seek other office.
Jeff Greene is skyrocketing in the polls, because voters are hungry for an outsider like Jeff Greene who is independent of the special interests and knows how to create jobs and get results," said Paul Blank, the Greene campaign spokesman. Kendrick Meek is lagging in every poll because voters know Meek is just another failed career politician in the middle of a corruption scandal, who cant win.
With reports that Greene has told Democratic leaders that he is willing to invest $40 million in the race, Meeks campaign is trying to make an issue of his opponents finances.
"While Florida families are stretching every dollar like never before, Greene is spending millions to try and buy Florida's Senate seat, said Adam Sharon, Meeks communications director. Kendrick Meek is fighting for middle-class families living on a tight budget, while Jeff Greene boasts about his unlimited resources and is out of touch with everyday people.
As the quick rise of both candidates in the polls shows, Greenes and Scotts media campaigns have clearly made an impact on Florida politics.
Mothers may tell their children that money cant buy happiness, but what these results show is that money can buy enough television ads to make political neophytes serious contenders for major political office, said Brown.
Quinnipiac surveyed 814 Republicans in Florida and 785 Democrats from June 2 until June 8. The poll of the Republicans has a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent and the poll of the Democrats has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.