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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Check out Bill Nelson's GOP support

Easily overlooked in the latest Quinnipiac University Florida polls are fascinating numbers that underscore the political might of U.S.. Sen. Bill Nelson. Forty-seven percent of Florida voters approve of Nelson's handling of his job, which is nothing to brag about but also not especially poor in today's political climate. More striking is that only 26 percent of Florida voters disapprove of his performance.

And get this: 42 percent of Republicans approve of their Democratic senior senator''s performance, while just 35 percent disapprove. In today's politically polarized climate that is downright amazing. Compare that two two other leading Republicans who, like Nelson, also have been talked up as vice presidential contenders this year.

Quinnipiac finds Sen. Marco Rubio is upside down on his approval/disapproval; 42/29. Among Democrats, 22 percent approve of Rubio's handling of his job and 65 percent disapprove.

Then there is Gov. Rick Scott, who may well be the Republican nominee trying to block Nelson from being re-elected to a fourth term in 2018. Forty percent of Florida voters approve of Scott's performance, and 49 percent disapprove. A paltry 14 percent of Democrats approve of their governor's performance and 73 percent disapprove.

Yes, Florida's 73-year-old senior senator has been blessed with weak GOP challengers (Bill McCollum, Katherine Harris, Connie Mack IV), but he also happens to be one of Florida's shrewdest politicians with a gut understanding of Florida's electorate.

We can't imagine Hillary Clinton picking Nelson as a running mate and letting Gov. Scott appoint Florida's next senator when Democrats have a decent shot at winning back a senate majority. But our hunch is Nelson will run again (as he has already said). And underestimating Bill Nelson is like underestimating vanilla ice cream. Neither is likely to disappear any time soon.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 12, 2016 12:05pm]


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