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New Poll Shows Scott, Crist In Virtual Tie

With pollsters saying Florida’s gubernatorial race remains too close to call, a new poll shows Republican incumbent Rick Scott with a slight lead over Democrat Charlie Crist.

In a two-man contest Scott leads Crist 46-44 percent in the poll of likely voters taken last week. The three point margin of error makes the race a virtual dead heat. Peter Brown, Quinnipiac’s assistant poll director, says it appears Democrats are embracing Crist -- the Republican-turned-Independent-turned Democrat.

In a three-way race with Libertarian Adrian Wyllie, Scott leads Crist 44-42 percent, with 8 percent backing Wyllie. Republican and Democratic voters already have lined up behind their parties’ candidates. Brown says the race could be decided by independent voters, and Wyllie supporters.

“Independents, by nature, go back and forth between the two major parties,” said Brown. “The fact that Scott has a small lead among independents is a big deal for him. Wylie voters are more difficult to figure out, because it’s not clear whether they’ll vote. And if they do go to the polls, whether they’ll vote for Mr. Wyllie or perhaps vote for one of the major party candidates.”

The Quinnipiac results mirror other recent polls showing Scott closing the gap in the race or taking a narrow lead. That shift, in part, has come amid a deluge of negative TV and online ads from both sides. Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown says fewer than four in 10 respondents think both Crist and Scott are honest, in what he calls one of the nastiest races in Florida history.

Susan McManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida, said earlier this year that the race between Scott and Crist would be even more rancorous as November 4 got closer. And she adds that could be a big wakeup call to the consultants on both sides, who are encouraging the animosity at a time when voters are down on politicians.

“It is quite likely that we might have a record low turnout for a mid-term election,” McManus said. “And we didn’t have a very good turnout at all in the primary, and some saw that as a prelude to what happens when you have ‘nasty-on-nasty’ and you expect people to get energized and go to the polls.”

Gov. Scott visited Pensacola earlier this month, as part of a 28-city bus tour. Adrian Wyllie will be here next Monday for a fund-raiser. But it appears that Charlie Crist has no plans to stump in the Pensacola area – which helped elect him as a Republican in 2006 – any time before Election Day.

When it comes to the gender gap, advantage Rick Scott. The Governor leads Charlie Crist by eight points among men, 48-40 percent. That offsets Crist’s 43-41 percent margin among women voters.