08/11/2009 02:41 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Situation Report: Florida

During these August weeks when Washington has all but shut down, I thought this would be a good opportunity to do a brief run-down of polls in my beloved home state of Florida. (I was born and raised in Orlando and keep a close eye on how things are evolving back home.)


In the GOP Primary, Crist has maintained over 50% in the ballot test against Rubio, who started with little name ID and has risen to the the mid-20's.

The story here is not particularly surprising: Rubio's numbers began low and had nowhere else to go but up. The race also does not appear to be shifting dramatically or wildly; rather we see the slow and steady increase of Rubio's numbers as more people learn who he is. For example, the Quinnipiac poll released today has the race at 55-26, a very modest gain for Rubio over its 54-23 finding from June.

Buried within the numbers that have come out over the last few months is both good and bad news for Crist. On the upside for Crist, his job approval is good: 60% is a pretty strong number for a Governor in a state that is going through a rough time that is actually shrinking in population for the first time in recent memory. Crist is also not a polarizing figure and general election opponents should be very afraid: Crist's job approval among Democrats is 54%.

Yet there are weaknesses Crist will have to address: namely, the way the ballot test looks when name ID isn't an issue, and the way GOP primary voters stand on items like the stimulus. A poll conducted for Club for Growth in June showed 75% of FL GOP primary voters say the "stimulus was bad" - given Crist's support for the stimulus, this presents a major weakness. Furthermore, a June poll conducted by Mason Dixon showed that among Republicans who know of both Crist and Rubio, the race tightens significantly and Rubio pulls near even. Crist has held onto his share on the ballot test overall but as more Floridians hear Rubio's message, Crist's numbers are vulnerable.

On the Democratic side, the primary is crowded and the candidate who performs the best on the ballot test is Kendrick Meek who still comes in around the teens and 20's.

Because the Democratic field is full of a variety of candidates with regional or district-based appeal but without large statewide name ID, a ballot test is difficult at this point in the game and perhaps not highly illuminating. Nonetheless, the polls show Crist with a large margin over current Democratic frontrunner in the polls Kendrick Meek.


While much of the discussion around the Senate race focuses on the primaries, the Governor's race looks like it will likely come down to Attorney General Bill McCollum and state CFO Alex Sink. The aforementioned Quinnipiac poll out today shows McCollum leading the race 38-34 among registered voters, with a 38-23 advantage among independent voters. This is similar to a Mason-Dixon poll from June that showed McCollum with a 41-27 advantage among independents.

While these numbers - and in particular, the advantage among independents - must be seen as reassuring news for Team McCollum, voters don't have an enthusiastically favorable view of either candidate. In that June Mason-Dixon poll, McCollum's name ID was 87% - unsurprising given his long electoral career in the state - but his favorables were only at 29%, with 45% saying they are "neutral". Today's Quinnipiac poll shows better numbers for McCollum, with 42% favorable and 13% unfavorable.

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