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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St Pete Times/Herald/BayNews 9 poll: Crist 30%, Rubio 27%, Meek 15%

Crist-rubio Charlie Crist's declaration of independence is paying off — so far.

The governor narrowly leads Florida's topsy-turvy U.S. Senate race, despite nearly half of the voters saying he made a "purely political" decision to bolt the GOP and run as an independent candidate in the Nov. 2 general election, a new St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll finds.

Of the registered voters surveyed, 30 percent were for Crist, 27 percent for Republican Marco Rubio and 15 percent for Democratic front-runner Kendrick Meek. The race remains volatile: Crist's lead over Rubio is within the poll's margin of error of 4 percentage points, and nearly one out of four voters is undecided.

"This is a bit of a petri dish in some ways because Crist is a popular guy — people like him, they like his policies," pollster Julia Clark, director of Ipsos Public Affairs, said of the outsized influence independent and swing voters may have on the race. "He is stripping away support from both the Democrats and the Republicans, and I think that's going to confuse things a lot for both of those parties."

The secret to Crist's success so far: his broader appeal across the political spectrum in the newly reconfigured three-man race. He is backed by 39 percent of independents, 38 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Republicans. Rubio, a former House speaker from Miami, and Meek, a Miami congressman, are drawing most of their support from members of their own parties.

For a governor who is leading one of the country's most economically ravaged states and who only a few weeks ago faced near-certain defeat against Rubio in the Aug. 24 GOP primary, Crist remains remarkably well-liked.

Only 38 percent disapprove of his job performance, while 52 percent approve — including more than six in 10 independents and Democrats.

(Story here)

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:39am]

    

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