FiveThirtyEight.com: Given a choice, Florida voters seem to like Charlie Crist … just a little more

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Floridians dislike both Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, but those are the choices voters face—for the most part.

For now, says Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight.com, Crist appears to be the most popular choice.

In the vast majority of polls from earlier in the year, Crist was leading, mostly due to his bipartisan appeal.

After all, Enten writes, Crist was a Republican once.

The problem is now he is a Democrat; a there is a case to be made that he switched once failing to win the 2010 Republican Senate primary.

Scottworld launched an advertising assault that undoubtedly influenced Crist’s standing; particularly after spending $43 million to Crist’s $25 million.

Crist’s 5-point lead fell swiftly throughout the first half of the year. By the start of June, it was gone. Scott held a small lead through the summer.

Of 18 polls taken between June and August, Scott led in 12 and was behind in only four.

But as Enten notes, something happened over the last month: Crist has bounced back.

Crist’s lead currently hovers at one percentage point. SurveyUSA tracking polls for WLFA-TV best demonstrates that momentum. Three SurveyUSA polls that were taken after Sept. 26 show Crist ahead in all three with an average lead of 4 points. Five of the previous six polls, he was behind an average of 2 points.

So what happened?

One theory suggests it is the same reason initially fell behind: money. Crist was outspent through most of the year, but not the week he began climbing in the polls.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Crist and Scott spent $3.4 million each between Sept. 27 and Oct. 3.

The bottom line: Floridians lean slightly more towards Crist when he and Scott are equal in finances.

That sudden rise also doesn’t mean Crist has become more popular after July. Ads from both camps are as negative as ever, and both remain unpopular.

But in SurveyUSA polling, Crist’s net favorable rankings were -10 points (the percentage of respondents who view him favorably minus the number who view him unfavorably). On the other hand, it was -8 points for Scott.

CNN polling gives Crist an -11 point net favorable rating, while Scott was at -7 points.

That is certainly worse than earlier in the year, when Crist’s net favorable rating was -2 points; Scott’s was -5 points.

All this also suggests that the 2014 gubernatorial election will set a record, held since 2005, for a campaign where voters dislike both candidates.

Luckily for Crist, Enten concludes, the election is a choice.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.