Miami Herald: Poll: Alex Sink losing ground to Bill McCollum

Aug 19, 2009

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

   A new poll revealed Alex Sink, right, has lost ground to Republican rival Bill McCollum, left.   FILE PHOTOS A new poll revealed Alex Sink, right, has lost ground to Republican rival Bill McCollum, left. Gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink has lost ground to Republican rival Bill McCollum and now trails him 34-38 percentage points, according to Quinnipiac University’s latest poll of registered Florida voters.

Aug. 19, 2009 — In June, the numbers were the reverse: Sink led McCollum 38-34.

The latest poll doesn’t give much of an indication as to why voters seem to be shifting away from Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, and toward McCollum, Florida’s attorney general.

Though the race is essentially a tie, pollster Peter A. Brown said President Barack Obama’s standing with voters has been sinking, and it could be having an influence on the race.

“Politics is a team game and those who are on the same team tend to benefit when the team’s doing well,” said Brown, assistant director of the Connecticut-based university’s polling institute.

The poll also indicates that McCollum’s years in politics appears to benefit him. Sink is a relative newcomer, running for the first time statewide in her successful 2006 bid for CFO.

“It’s not just that more people know him, more people know him and most of them like him,” Brown said.

A poll released earlier this week by the Florida Chamber of Commerce showed that Sink trailed McCollum by 9 percentage points. The chamber poll surveyed 605 likely Florida voters and had an error margin of 4 percent. The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,136 registered voters with an error margin of 2.9 percent.

But with more than a year to go until the 2010 elections, expect all of these numbers to shift. About 25 percent of the electorate is undecided in Quinnipiac’s poll.

The poll also exposes another problem for Sink: It seems women might not know she’s a woman. The poll shows that McCollum has a slight lead over Sink among women voters, 34-37.

When asked if they’d be more likely to vote for Sink if they knew she would be Florida’s first female governor, an overwhelming majority said it wouldn’t make a difference. About 13 percent of women said they would be more likely to favor Sink because she’s a woman, compared to 7 percent of men.

If the race for U.S. Senate were held today, the Quinnipiac poll indicates Gov. Charlie Crist would blow out his Republican rival in the primary, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, by a 55-26 margin with 18 percent undecided. The number is virtually unchanged since June.

Rubio is largely an unknown, with 74 percent saying they haven’t heard enough about him. The Democratic contenders, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, Corrine Brown and Ron Klein, aren’t well known statewide.

Not only is Crist well known, he’s well liked.

Though myriad problems with the economy unfolded on his watch, about 60 percent of voters approve of the job he’s doing. That’s an 8 percentage-point decline since February, but Brown said Crist’s numbers are incredibly strong for such a big state with such big problems. Governors in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania have far lower approval ratings, Brown said.

Crist’s support is strongest among Republicans, suggesting that the handful of county Republican Party revolts against Crist and the state party he controls aren’t having much of an effect among rank-and-file voters.

“Mr. Rubio’s been going around to Republican activists and getting a response from some of them. The problem is: This is a very big state and you’re not able to meet every voter or anything close to every voter in Florida,” Brown said.

“To a large degree,” Brown said, running for statewide office is all about “image and money and the ability to wage a media campaign. And Gov. Crist has made a very good first impression on the people of Florida.”

In the most recent fundraising quarter, Crist broke records by hauling in $4.3 million in contributions. Rubio took in $340,000.

A poll from Rasmussen Reports resembles the Quinnipiac survey. It shows Crist leads Rubio 53-31 with 11 percent undecided.

While it’s good news for the governor, “the fact that Crist is barely above 50% in a primary against a much lesser known opponent suggests at least a potential vulnerability,” Rasmussen Reports says in an online analysis.