Republican Rick Scott clings to a single percentage point lead over Democrat Alex Sink, 45-44, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.
The results reflect quite a move for Sink, who was down 43-49 in Quinnipiac's last Oct. 1 survey. Sink also is winning among independents, 51-34, a group that she had been losing, 40-46, to Scott earlier this month.
The poll suggests Sink, who promised to run an issues-based campaign, has decided to go negative, releasing a slew of ads questioning the ethics of Scott, whose former hospital company was ultimately whacked with a $1.7 billion Medicare fraud fine.
Sink's latest strategy: question Scott's last healthcare investment company, Solantic, a chain of walk-in clinics. Though Solantic is no Columbia/HCA, Sink is conflating the two, in part because Scott is refusing to release a deposition (given six days before he ran for governor) in a lawsuit regarding the chain of walk-in clinics.
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Scott has hit back, noting fraud charges that swirled around the NationsBank chain when Sink was Florida president.
Still, Sink is viewed as a more ethical business person than Scott, 44-28, the poll shows. She's also viewed more favorably than unfavorably, 42-37, while Scott's favorable/unfavorable numbers are upside-down -- 39-46.
"Her image has improved while his has deteriorated. It would seem that the debate through television ads about their respective business careers may be the reason," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "At this point, she is winning that debate handily and it is having an impact on the race.
But Brown said the economy and jobs are equally important in this election. And voters seem to think Scott is the best man to get the state out of the financial doldrums. Meanwhile, Sink leads among those who think the economy is improving, but more voters believe the economy is getting worse -- and they're with Scott.
Also, more Republicans and conservatives are expected to show up at the polls this election, providing a crucial edge for Scott. In the primary, about 350,000 more Republicans than Democrats cast ballots.
The governor's race is the subject of a parade of polls, but taken together they do show the race is essentially dead even.
From October 6-10, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,055 Florida likely voters with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.