After spending more than $10 million on campaign ads in the last two months, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida continues to trail his predecessor and potential opponent by 10 percentage points, according to a poll released today by Quinnipiac University.
Voters see the former governor, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, as more compassionate and trustworthy, according to the poll, which found the 57-year-old Crist leading the 61-year-old Scott by a 48-38 point margin.
Scott’s barrage of television ads were meant to close that gap. The wealthy governor told the National Review last year that he was stockpiling $25 million to “define” his opponent early in the race. Some of Scott’s ads have attacked Crist as a poor governor, while others have presented a softer image of Scott— the multimillionaire speaking about his poor childhood while looking into the camera.
So far, it’s not working.
Voters say Crist is more compassionate than Scott by a 50-35 margin, the Quinnipiac poll finds. Crist is seen favorably by a 43-36 margin, while Scott has a negative 39-46 favorability score. Fifty-three percent of voters say Scott doesn’t deserve re-election.
“Florida voters think former Gov. Crist is more compassionate, more honest and trustworthy and was a better governor than Gov. Scott,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement. “The difference may be simple: voters like Crist, whose strength always has been his ability to connect. Voters sometimes elect candidates they don’t like personally, but not that often.”
The Scott campaign suggests this latest survey is off the mark for over-sampling Democrats. Campaign spokesman Greg Blair, in an email today, notes that Quinnipiac included six percent more Democrats than Republicans in its survey, while the 2010 electorate that seated Scott leaned four percent Republican.
Yet in a state where growing numbers of voters are unaffiliated with either party, it’s often the independent-minded voter who holds sway in this swing state that supported President Barack Obama twice and also backed George W. Bush, a state with one Democratic U.S. senator and one Republican.
In the new Quinnipiac survey, independents side with Crist by a sizable margin: 48-34 percent — and an even greater share call him the more compassionate candidate, by 52-31 percent.
Scott has trailed Crist in all five polls Quinnipiac has released since test-matching the two governors head-to-head last year. The margin has ranged from 16 points in March 2013 to seven points in November. The latest survey of 1,413 registered voters was conducted from April 23 to 28 and has a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.
If Crist secures the Democratic nomination — he faces a primary contest with former state Sen. Nan Rich — his race against Scott could be one of the most expensive in U.S. history. Scott, a former healthcare executive who spent more than $73 million of his own money during his 2010 campaign, is preparing for what strategists say could be a $100-million spending effort.
When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came to Florida in January, he presented Scott with a $2.5 million check from the Republican Governors Association. Scott was to join Christie at a fundraiser in Lakeland today, but inclement weather in the Panhandle has kept the governor there, postponing his trip.
The poll also found that Floridians support legalizing same-sex marriage, by a 56-39 percent margin. A majority of Florida voters also believe undocumented immigrants who attend high school in the state should be eligible for in-state tuition rates at public colleges.