Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam C. Smith reported Saturday that “the race between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist for Florida governor has long been seen as a toss-up, and recent polls bolster the perception of a campaign that could go either way.” However, while Smith conceded that “the Florida Insider Poll is an entirely unscientific survey of people closely involved in the political process,” it clearly showed that “conventional wisdom among Florida’s political elite has shifted decidedly in Gov. Scott’s favor.”
“When we surveyed more than 130 of Florida’s savviest political hands seven weeks ago,” Smith wrote, “a slight majority predicted that Scott would beat Crist.”
“This week,” Smith reported, “two-thirds of our Florida Insiders — including 38 percent of the Democrats — said they expect Scott to beat former Gov. Crist.”
According to Rasmussen’s Sept. 8-10 survey of 1,000 Likely Voters in Florida, Scott trailed Crist by two percentage points, 40 percent to 42 percent. However, a more recent tracking poll — conducted by SurveyUSA Today Sept. 12 – 15 for WFLA-TV and bearing the headline, “Republican Scott Has Momentum, Democrat Crist Sputters” — showed Scott leading Crist by five percentage points, 44 percent to 39 percent. At 39 percent, SurveyUSA Today noted that it was “the first time that Crist has polled below 40 percent in the 6 months since WFLA-TV began tracking the contest.”
While both candidates have Negative Net Favorability ratings, Crist leads Scott in the Negative Net Favorability rating by a margin of nine percentage points. Where 33 percent of Florida’s voters have a favorable opinion of Crist, 47 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him, giving Crist a Negative Net Favorability rating of minus 14. While 39 percent of Florida’s voters expressed a favorable opinion of Scott, 44 percent expressed an unfavorable opinion, giving Scott a Negative Net Favorability rating of only minus five.
As Examiner reported Sept. 14, former Florida Gov. Crist use to be a Republican. However, when he was running for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2010 — and polls began showing he would lose the Republican nomination to now Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — Crist abandoned the GOP and continued his bid for the Senate as an independent. When he was defeated by Rubio, Crist then attached himself to the No Labels party. When No Labels failed to gain momentum, Crist registered as a Democrat before making his current attempt to reclaim his old job as Florida’s governor. Examiner further noted that Crist has changed his position on multiple key issues, such as gay marriage, drilling for oil, fracking, Bright Futures, the U.S. embargo on Cuba, raising the minimum wage, raising taxes, and Obamacare.
On Jan. 3, CNN’s Ashley Killough quoted Susan Hepworth, spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida, saying Crist will “say and do anything to move his political career forward.”
Overall, the Real Clear Politics average of six surveys shows Scott leading Crist by 1.8 percentage points, 43.0 percent to 41.2 percent. However, SurveyUSA Today further noted of its Sept. 12-15 polling results that “in Southeast Florida, a Democratic stronghold which includes Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Crist is down 9 points week-on-week, and today leads in that part of the state by just three.”
“Without Southeast Florida solidly in one’s back pocket,” SurveyUSA Today quantified, “no Democrat can carry the state.”