Five weeks after bailing on the Republican Party to run as an independent, Gov. Charlie Crist leads the three-way race for the Senate in a new Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters, while both of the Republican contenders for governor lead likely Democratic nominee Alex Sink.
Crist leads with 37 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent for Republican Marco Rubio and 17 percent for Democrat Kendrick Meek. It's the third major statewide poll since Crist's April 29 announcement, and Crist has led all three.
Peter Brown, assistant director for Quinnipiac's Polling Institute, said Crist is "doing a pretty good job" of attracting votes from Democrats. But he noted that Meek and primary challenger Jeff Greene are still largely unknown to the public.
"Will he be able to hold the large number of Democratic votes he's now getting in the poll?" Brown said. "That really will go a long way to determine who wins the Senate race."
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,133 Florida voters from June 1 to 7, with a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points. Questions released Wednesday focused on the Nov. 2 general election, not the Aug. 24 primary.
In the governor's race, former health care executive Rick Scott leads Sink 42 percent to 32 percent, while Attorney General Bill McCollum leads Sink 42 percent to 34 percent.
The poll shows independent Lawton "Bud" Chiles III drawing up to 19 percent in a three-way race. Chiles announced his candidacy midway through the polling period, resulting in a higher margin of error for questions that include him, 4.7 percentage points.
Brown said Chiles has a "magic name" because of his father, former Gov. Lawton Chiles. But he is still unknown by 80 percent of the electorate.
Sink, Florida's chief financial officer, also is relatively unknown, with 56 percent of voters saying they don't know enough about her to form an opinion.
The Quinnipiac poll also shows Floridians have soured on additional offshore oil drilling and disapprove of President Barack Obama's response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Lee Logan can be reached at email@example.com or (850) 224-7263.