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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Pete Times Poll: Bye-bye Rudy?

23

January

It’s Mitt Romney vs. John McCain in the final stretch of Florida’s crucial Republican primary.

A new St. Petersburg Times poll shows the former Massachusetts governor and Arizona senator neck and neck among Florida Republicans, while Rudy Giuliani’s Florida-or-bust strategy has been a bust.

Among Florida voters likely to vote in Tuesday’s primary, 25 percent are backing McCain and 23 percent Romney, a statistical tie, while Giuliani and Mike Huckabee were tied for third place with 15 percent each.

In Florida’s odd candidate-free, campaign-free Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton is trouncing Barack Obama by 19 percentage points in a race with stark racial divisions. The poll found 42 percent backing Clinton, 23 percent supporting Obama and 12 percent former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

But it’s the volatile GOP race the nation is mainly watching, as Florida Republicans stand to have a huge influence over which candidates have a shot at competing as nearly two dozen states vote on Feb. 5. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani staked his candidacy on Florida, and even with 27 percent of Florida Republicans saying they might change their minds, it looks like a bad gamble.

"Giuliani's decision to pull out of the early states is going to go down in history if he finishes out of the money in Florida as one of the worst political decisions,'' said pollster Tom Eldon.

The survey was conducted Jan. 20-22 for the St. Petersburg Times, Bay News 9 and the Miami Herald. It was conducted by telephone from a list of registered and frequent voters in Florida who described themselves as likely to vote Jan. 29.

The full sample of 800 interviews has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent, while the margin of error for the Democrats is plus or minus 5.4 percent and for the Republicans it's 5.1 percent.

The poll included actor and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who dropped out of the race Tuesday afternoon. But Thompson’s departure appears unlikely to change much as only 4 percent of those surveyed backed him, just ahead of Ron Paul with 3 percent.

The same pollsters in November found Giuliani leading the field by 17 percentage points, but since then his support in South Florida has dropped dramatically.

Where he dominated the region with 50 percent support in November and 70 percent support among Hispanic voters, the latest poll shows him trailing McCain by 10 percentage points in south Florida. His support among Hispanic was cut almost in half, with him and McCain effectively tied 36 percent to 33 percent.

---Adam C. Smith

See the complete results

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[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 3:18pm]

    

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