Mason-Dixon poll puts Rick Scott and Charlie Crist in dead heat

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A newly released Mason-Dixon poll has Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist dead even, with more than 10 percent of voters remaining undecided.

The survey — commissioned by the News Service of Florida — shows Scott and former governor Crist, the presumptive Democratic nominee, tied at 42 percent each. Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie polls at 4 percent.

Twelve percent of registered voters polled said they were undecided – a clear indication that the race will remain uncertain.

“Florida voters continue to have reservations and mixed views about both presumptive party nominees for governor,” Mason-Dixon managing director Brad Coker told the News Service.

The study did not mention Nan Rich, the Weston Democrat and former Senate Minority Leader who is Crist’s challenger in the primary.

Among Hispanics, Crist leads Scott by eight points, 45-37 percent; which make them a key demographic along with “swing” independents, which combined could be the key to a November victory.

To appeal to Hispanic voters, Scott appointed Cuban-American former state representative Carlos Lopez-Cantera, as lieutenant governor. He also switched positions this week to favor strongly allowing undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state tuition; a move Hispanic lawmakers spent years pushing.

In his first bid for governor, exit polls indicated a majority of Hispanics supported Scott, helped by popular Florida Republican Marco Rubio at the top of the ticket for the U.S. Senate race, Coker said. Scott won’t have a lift like that this time since Rubio is not on the ballot this November.

“Scott’s going to have to appeal to Hispanics without the help of Marco Rubio turning voters out and trying to get them to vote straight Republican,” Coker said.

“He’s going to have a bigger handicap with Hispanics than he did last time. … Right now, they’re just kind of up in the air. They don’t know what they’re going to do.”

According to reporters Dara Kam and Brandon Larrabee, Crist maintains a slight lead among independents, 37–35 percent.

However, within the GOP ranks, Scott is a bit more favorable than Crist — a former Republican who switched to independent, then Democrat — than he does with his newfound party. Scott leads with 79 percent of Republicans to only 9 percent for Crist.

Democrats 74-12 percent support Crist.

Scott holds an advantage in both North and Southwest Florida – a traditional Republican stronghold – as well as Central Florida. Crist does well in his home base of Tampa Bay and blows Scott away by 21 points in Southeast Florida, a strongly Democratic region.

Scott leads with men, voters 50 and older and white voters; Crist maintains a 10-point lead with female voters and strong support from African-Americans and younger voters.

The count of 700 likely voters, released on Thursday, took place from April 15-17 and April 21-22, with an overall margin of error of +/-3.8 percent. The margin is higher in subgroups.

Scott’s favorability also jumped to 35 percent, a substantial increase from 30 percent two years ago.

Crist campaign consultant Steve Schale downplays the Mason-Dixon survey and points out a recent poll from the conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports giving Crist an advantage over Scott by six percentage points.

More information about the poll is online at http://mason-dixon.com/florida/.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.