Instant analysis: What does today’s Quinnipiac poll say about the GOP primary

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At some point maybe this will stop being surprising, but for now Mike McCalister is still an 0utsider, still largely unknown in Republican circles. Yet he’s leading the pack in the latest poll in the primary for the U.S. Senate race. The retired army colonel was favored by 15 percent of those polled in the new Quinnipiac University poll. Still, more than half of GOP voters polled are undecided.  The News Service of Florida believes the surprise second place candidate is former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, who looked to be likely to become the frontrunner after Senate President Mike Haridopolos dropped out of the race. But LeMieux is only polling 12 percent according to the poll. Former Ruth’s Chris Steak House CEO Craig Miller comes in at 8 percent and former state legislator Adam Hasner was favored by 6 percent.

Shooting from the hip, I believe this poll poses more problems for Adam Hasner than it does George LeMieux.  Based on today’s numbers, Hasner is really nothing more than the Tim Pawlenty of Florida’s US Senate race: He’s got a good biography, great staff, lots of energy and momentum, but he’s stuck in first gear.

It’s also very difficult to make the argument that the Republican establishment, with Mike Haridopolos now out of the race, is coalescing around Hasner when the former state representative is polling at just above the margin of error.

Sure, sure, Rick Wilson and Co., will tell you that being down in the polls at this point in the cycle is nothing to worry about. They’ll point to Marco Rubio’s numbers at this point in the 2010 cycle and say that Hasner has plenty of time to turn things around.  And he does.  But not as much time as they might think.  Ballots will be in the air eleven months from now and the presidential race and the 2012 RNC convention in Tampa are and will be bigger priorities.  The 2012 GOP primary will not turn into the nationalized referendum Crist vs. Rubio became.

And who’s to say it’s Adam Hasner’s numbers which will improve the most? Isn’t Mike McCalister the “unknown” in this race?  What if GOP primary voters like what they see as they get to know the gruff, but world Col. McCalister?

As for George LeMieux, if he were a horse, I’d think two things: first, his race name would have to be “Backstabber” and, second, I’d bet LeMieux to ‘place” but never win, meaning I have no doubt he is going to finish second.  In other words, for my friends in the parimutuel industry, LeMieux is perfect for a quinnela bet.

And who would I bet to “win”? Something tells me not to rule out “The Colonel” down the stretch.

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.