Rubio leads by just 3 percentage points — 47-44 — and is well within the error margin of the Quinnipiac University poll. Yet the trend of Rubio’s rise and Crist’s fall is stark. In October, Crist led 50 – 35 percent. In August, Crist’s lead was even bigger (55 – 26) and in June the race looked like Crist would blow out Rubio by 54 – 23 percent.
“Who would have thunk it? A former state lawmaker virtually unknown outside of his South Florida home whose challenge to an exceedingly popular sitting governor for a U.S. Senate nomination had many insiders scratching their heads. He enters the race 31 points behind and seven months later sneaks into the lead,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“And, the horse race numbers are not a fluke. Rubio also tops Crist on a number of other measurements from registered Republicans, who are the only folks who can vote in the primary,” Brown said. “Rubio’s grassroots campaigning among Republican activists around the state clearly has paid off.”
But it’s not all Rubio’s doing. Crist has struggled as the economy nose-dived and unemployment surged. He raised taxes last year and, perhaps most significantly, stumped with Barack Obama for the stimulus package loathed by the Republican base that will decide this contest.
At the time Crist appeared onstage with Obama in February, it seemed like good politics, with the president enjoying sky-high approval ratings. A full 64 percent of Floridians approved of the job he was doing with only 23 percent disapproving, according to a February Quinnipiac poll.
Now, 49 percent of Floridians disapprove of the way Obama’s handling his job while 45 percent approve.