Crist Holds Lead Over Gov. Scott — Floridians Don’t See Second Term

Photograph by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times via Redux

President Barack Obama speaks with then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida on Casino Beach in Pensacola, Fl. in this June 15, 2010 file photo. Crist later switched parties and appeared on stage at the 2012 Democratic National Convention promoting Obama’s re-election.

Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott has spent the past week unveiling his 2014 budget piece-by-piece, traveling around the state to announce $600 million in new tax cuts and boosts in spending for popular programs and social services.

The public relations effort, a new poll shows, has so far fallen flat with voters.

A poll conducted this week and released today by Quinnipiac University found Scott’s approval rating remains underwater and he trails potential opponent Charlie Crist by 8 percentage points.

Voters prefer Crist, a former Republican governor now running as a Democrat, by a 46-38 percentage point margin, compared with 47-40 two months ago, the survey found. Scott, who trailed Crist by 16 points in a March poll, had been closing in on Crist in recent polls, as the state’s economy improved and the 61-year-old governor’s re-election committee began running attack ads.

Today’s poll — showing that only 41 percent of voters approve of Scott’s job performance, and 54 percent of voters think Scott doesn’t deserve to be re-elected — shows the difficulties the governor faces as he prepares for the most expensive governor’s race in Florida history.

“The best number in this poll for Crist – and the biggest problem for Scott – is that a majority of Florida voters say the current governor does not deserve a second term in Tallahassee,’’ said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement.

Crist, 57, is leading Scott on almost all matters covered in the survey, including education, healthcare and protecting the middle class. Forty-four percent of voters see Crist as more trustworthy and honest, compared with 36 percent for Scott.

Even as the state economy improves — the unemployment rate has dropped almost 5 points to 6.2 percent since Scott took office in 2011 — voters don’t appear to be giving the governor credit.

“Most voters are satisfied with the way things are going in the state and more are optimistic than pessimistic about the future, but at this point Gov. Scott isn’t getting any credit for that good feeling,’’ Brown said.

Scott and his supporters are trying to improve the governor’s image while tarnishing Crist’s favorability ratings — currently at 44 percent (with 35 percent unfavorable) — before the November election. Scott announced new sales tax holidays, and a $400 million rollback of license fees that were raised under Crist. He pledged to boost funding for environmental projects, job training and child welfare services.

The state Republican Party released a web ad yesterday bashing Crist, governor from 2007 to 2011, for the economic downturn the state faced during his term. (The entire nation suffered the worst recession since the Great Depression at the start of that time.)

“Charlie Crist, slick politician, lousy governor,’’ the narrator of the ad said after listing negative economic trends that took place during Crist’s term.

Crist ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010, leaving the Republican Party to become an independent before losing to now-Sen. Marco Rubio.

The poll of 1,565 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 22-27, and has a possible margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

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