TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Republican Marco Rubio commands a double-digit lead among likely voters in Florida's U.S. Senate race, harnessing a split among Democrats over their nominee Kendrick Meek and independent Gov. Charlie Crist, a poll issued Thursday shows.
Rubio, a tea party favorite, was favored in the three-way contest by 46 percent of 1,151 voters surveyed by Quinnipiac University between Sept. 23 and 28. The poll was Quinnipiac's first limited to the likely voters for the Nov. 2 general election and claimed a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
Crist, who left the GOP in April to run for the Senate without party affiliation, was favored by 33 percent and U.S. Rep. Meek was preferred by 18 percent in the three-way race.
A former state House speaker, Rubio built his lead with backing from 83 percent of likely Republican voters while nearly splitting the independent vote with Crist. Meanwhile, the survey shows Crist and Meek splitting among the Democrats.
Only 13 percent of GOP voters surveyed preferred Crist, a lifetime Republican who defected five months ago after it became apparent he could not beat Rubio in the August primary.
Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown said Crist probably wishes he would have sought a second term as governor instead of running for the Senate, as a majority of voters think he is doing a good job.
Crist jumped into the Senate race last year after incumbent Mel Martinez resigned. Crist expected he would beat the then little-known Rubio in the GOP primary, but the governor supported President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan and that backfired as many Republicans strongly opposed it and began switching to Rubio.
The poll shows Rubio as the major beneficiary of voter anger.
Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said they are angry at the federal government and another 29 percent described themselves as dissatisfied. Only 22 percent were satisfied with or enthusiastic about Washington's performance.
Rubio is backed by two-thirds of the angry or dissatisfied voters.