Political neophyte Rick Scott has surged to a 44 – 31 percent lead over Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum in the race for the Republican nomination for governor, apparently powered by a multimillion- dollar television ad blitz to introduce him to voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
In the contest for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination, Jeff Greene, another political unknown with deep pockets, is following a similar approach of large TV ad spending to move into a statistical dead heat with Kendrick Meek, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds: Meek gets 29 percent to Greene’s 27 percent with former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre at 3 percent. The biggest number, 37 percent, are undecided.
The winner of the Democratic Senate nomination will face Gov. Charlie Crist, running as an independent, and Republican Marco Rubio in November. The winner of the GOP nomination for governor will face Democrat Alex Sink and independent Bud Chiles in the general election.
Although six in 10 voters in both contests say they could still change their minds before the August 24 primary, the results in both races show just how potentially powerful the combination of money and an anti-establishment candidacy can be this election year.
“Mothers may tell their children that money can’t 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 Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “It certainly doesn’t hurt with Greene or Scott that this is shaping up to be the year of the anti-establishment candidate.”
“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,” Brown added.
Scott, a former health care executive, began running television commercials this spring when McCollum held a huge lead over state Sen. Paula Dockery, his only challenger for the GOP nomination for governor. But she dropped out of the race once the size of Scott’s financial resources and willingness to spend became apparent.
“In addition to being a testament to the power of television, Scott’s ability to take the lead so quickly is also a reflection on McCollum’s lack of strong support within his own party despite his two decades in Florida politics,” said Brown.
Scott is viewed favorably by 40 percent of Republicans; unfavorably by 12 percent and 46 percent say they don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. McCollum, in his third statewide race and having spent a decade in Congress, is viewed favorably by 41 percent; unfavorably by 19 percent and 36 percent don’t have an opinion.
Many of Scott’s television ads have been devoted to his support for an immigration law similar to Arizona’s.
In a separate survey of 1,133 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percent, Republicans approve of the Arizona immigration law 86 – 7 percent and want a similar statute in Florida 84 – 10 percent.
In the Democratic Senate primary, Greene is almost as well known as Meek, a four-term congressman from South Florida. Asked to rate him, 23 percent of Democrats view Greene favorably, 10 percent unfavorably and 64 percent don’t know enough about him to have an opinion. Meek, by comparison, is viewed favorably by 29 percent; unfavorably by 8 percent and 59 percent don’t have an opinion.
From June 2 – 8, Quinnipiac University surveyed 814 Republican likely primary voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points and 785 Democratic likely primary voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.
The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and the nation as a public service and for research.