Poll: Rick Scott and Charlie Crist are deadlocked

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, left, and incumbent Rick Scott.
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, left, and incumbent Rick Scott. AP/composite

The mean and personal Florida governor’s race remains deadlocked, with Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist each getting just 42 percent of the vote in the latest survey from Quinnipiac University.

More than one million Floridians have already cast mail-in absentee ballots and early in-person ballots ahead of the Nov. 4 election, with registered Republicans out-voting Democrats 48-35 percent.

Scott and his supporters have spent almost $60 million and Crist’s side has dropped almost $27 million on TV ads since March — with the majority of the spending focused on sharp, negative messages. The negativity has taken its toll on the candidates.

“Will nice guys finish last in the Florida governor’s race? According to voters, there are no nice guys in this race, since neither Scott nor Crist are viewed favorably,” said Peter A. Brown, the university’s assistant director of polling.

“The Florida governor’s race challenges the idea that voters won’t vote for a candidate they don’t like,” Brown said. “In the Sunshine State this year, voters definitely are voting for the lesser of two evils.”

And they’re not really that interested in choosing the Libertarian candidate, Adrian Wyllie, who gets about 7 percent in the poll. Without him in the race, Scott and Crist remain deadlocked, at 44 percent each. The poll has a 3.1 percentage point error margin.

The Quinnipiac poll is the third in about a week to show an exact tie between the Republican and the Democrat. In other polls, neither candidate has taken a clear lead outside the margin of error.

Crist might have the slightest of advantages heading into the race because he could be leading among independents over Scott, 41-38 percent. In a race where each candidate has consolidated his base, the candidate who wins independents usually wins.

Crist gets 86 percent support from Democrats and 7 percent from Republicans while Scott draws 81 percent support from Republicans and 5 percent from Democrats.

There’s also a battle of the sexes: Crist leads Scott among women, 45-39 percent, and Scott leads Crist among men, 46-38 percent.

The poll was released as Florida heads into its third day of early in-person voting. The first day of early voting showed Democrats leading Republicans by just 2 percentage points of the more than 47,000 ballots cast. Data for the second day of early voting had not been released by the state’s elections division as of Wednesday morning.

Meantime, Republicans have a nearly 14 percentage point advantage over Democrats when it comes to casting mail-in absentee ballots.

Despite the GOP advantage in ballots cast, the Quinnipiac poll found that Crist led Scott 42-38 percent among those who had already voted. That’s an inside-the-error-margin lead for Crist. And the sample size of these voters is smaller than the rest of the poll of 984 self-identified likely voters.

Factoring in the poll’s main cross-tabs that show Republican, Democrat and independent support for each candidate, Scott could lead Crist by as much as 47-41 percent in total early votes.

As in-person early voting continues, Democrats are expected to close the margin. They typically do better than the GOP in casting early votes in person, particularly on the weekend when working people can make the time to head to the polls. African-American voters, perhaps the most-crucial voting bloc for Crist, have made a tradition of early voting after church on Sundays.

“For all the money spent on this race,” Brown said, “it now appears the winner will be the one whose organization excels at the blocking and tackling of politics – getting their voters to the polls.”

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