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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Q-poll: Sink-Scott still too close to call, Crist cuts into Rubio's lead



Voters surveyed last week by Quinnipiac University favored Democrat Alex Sink over Republican Rick Scott by 45 to 41 percent, with 11 percent of the voters still undecided. But the survey of 784 likely voters, just released this morning, was taken Oct. 18-24 and completed one day before the debate cheating flap that has consumed the race for governor. The poll also has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The survey also shows that Republican Marco Rubio holds a steady lead against challengers Gov. Charlie Crist, who is not affiliated with any party, and Democrat Kendrick Meek. Rubio is favored by 42 percent of voters, compared to Crist's 35 percent and Meek's 15 percent, according to the poll.

In the tight race for governor, 9 pecent of those surveyed said they might change their mind by Election Day. "With one in eight voters still in play and Scott’s supporters slightly more solid in support, this race looks like it will go to the finish line as a dead heat,'' said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Since the poll, Sink and Scott conducted their last debate and the differences that emerged from the candidates and their messages have since been drowned out in fallout over a Sink aide's attempt to send her a message during the debate. A stylist showed Sink a cell phone text message, violating rules of the debate that prohibited coaching.

Sink and Scott, both inexperienced campaigners, have walked on eggshells for months, hoping to avoid embarrassing gaffes. The debate flap forced Sink to immediately remove Brian May, the unpaid political consultant who sent the message, from her campaign. Scott's campaign pounced on the incident, labeling it a cheating scam.

Sink has spent the last two days responding to the flap after debate moderater John King of CNN concluded that Sink knew she was receiving coaching from an aide during the debate. It took Sink's campaign two days to persuade the media that she did not cheat and unwound the video to show that she did not realize why she was being handed the phone.  

The lead for governor has see-sawed back and forth over the last month, with the margin between Sink and Scott usually within polls' margin of error. By contrast, Rubio has held a comfortable margin for weeks, although the poll shows that Crist has cut into it slightly as Meek's supporters gradually move to Crist.

"With his supporters less likely to change their minds than those of his two opponents, Marco Rubio is in the driver's seat with only five days to go until Election Day,'' Brown said.

In the governor's race, independent voters continue to be the ones that are likely to make a difference on Election Day, the poll shows. As of last week, 42 percent favored Sink and 37 percent favored Scott. But the survey also revealed that despite the anti-Washington sentiment and the president's low approval ratings, the percentage of Republicans are fleeing to Sink -- 17 percent -- is larger than that of Democrats moving to Scott -- 8 percent. 

One thing Sink does have, however is a lock on women's votes, Brown said. The poll shows that 46 percent of women favor Sink, while 38 percent favor Scott. Scott's edge among men, 45 percent to 44 percent, is well within the poll's margin of error.

"Given that Ms. Sink would become Florida's first female governor, the lack of a larger gender gap is perhaps surprising," Brown said. "She has some momentum, but anything can happen in the final days before Election Day."

[Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:25am]


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