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Quinnipiac Poll: Charlie Crist, 37, Marco Rubio 33, Kendrick Meek 17; Jeff Greene closing

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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, running as an independent, edges Republican Marco Rubio 37 – 33 percent in the U.S. Senate race, with 17 percent for Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.   If Jeff Greene gets the Democratic nod, Crist tops Rubio 40 – 33 percent with 14 percent for Greene.

In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, Florida voters oppose 51 – 42 percent increasing the amount of offshore oil drilling, a 48-point swing from the 66 – 27 percent support for drilling in an April 19 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.

President Barack Obama’s job approval is a negative 40 – 54 percent, his lowest point ever in Florida and down from a 50 – 45 percent approval April 19, right after his call for increased offshore drilling.

Two Republicans, State Attorney General Bill McCollum and health care executive Rick Scott, lead Democrat Alex Sink 42 – 34 percent and 42 – 32 percent respectively, in the race for governor.  A three-way race including independent Bud Chiles scrambles the race considerably.  But a three-way gubernatorial race was tested only after Chiles announced his independent candidacy and has a larger sampling error than the rest of the poll.

“Gov. Charlie Crist leads Marco Rubio by a nose in the Senate race.  Obviously there is a long time until November, but the Governor is doing very well among independent voters,   almost as well among Democrats as Meek, and better among Democrats than Greene,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.  “With Rubio getting two-thirds of the Republican vote, the fate of Gov. Crist, who switched from a Republican to independent six weeks ago, depends heavily on his ability to appeal to Democratic voters.”

“Clearly, the gulf oil spill has changed the way Floridians view offshore drilling and almost certainly is responsible for the drop in President Obama’s approval rating,” said Brown.  “Voters disapprove 54 – 37 percent of the way Obama is handling the spill.”

In a three way race with Meek, Crist gets 28 percent of Republicans, 37 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents.  Against Rubio and Greene, Crist gets 28 percent of Republicans, 46 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents.  By contrast, Rubio gets just 7 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of independents in the Meek matchup and 6 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of independents with Greene in the race.

“Gov. Crist’s candidacy still benefits from a substantial name recognition advantage. While only 11 percent of voters say they don’t know enough about Crist to have an opinion, for Rubio that number is 34 percent.  And more than 69 percent don’t know enough about Meek or Greene to have formed a view.  Since Crist’s chance of victory depends on a substantial showing among Democrats, the question is whether he’ll retain his current share among them once the eventual Democratic nominee becomes better known,” said Brown.

With Chiles on the ballot, McCollum leads in the governor’s race, with 33 percent to 25 percent for Sink and 19 percent for Chiles.  If Scott is the GOP nominee, he gets 35 percent with Sink at 26 percent and Chiles at 13 percent.

McCollum is the best known candidate for governor with only 32 percent of voters not knowing enough about him to have an opinion, compared to 56 percent for Sink, 46 percent for Scott and 81 percent for Chiles, son of former Governor and Senator Lawton Chiles.

“The governor’s race was close even before Chiles entered it.  But now, it’s a whole new and even closer ballgame. The dynamics of a three-way race will force the Republican and Democratic candidates to reconsider their strategies,” said Brown.  “Ms. Sink remains relatively unknown after four years as Florida’s chief financial officer.  Scott, a political unknown until his multi-million dollar TV ad buys, is actually better known than she at this point.”

From June 1 – 7, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,133 Florida voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.   For the Chiles matchups, there were 435 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percent.

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.

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