Polls show a real nail-biter in Florida governor's race

MIAMI — With Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Rick Scott making multiple campaign stops Thursday, three new polls show the Florida governor's race remains a tough-to-call nail biter.

Sink leads Scott by 3 percentage points in a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey. And she's up by 4 percentage points in a Quinnipiac University poll. Rasmussen Reports also released a survey, but has Scott holding a 3 percentage point lead over Sink.

None of the leads is solid and each is essentially within the polls' error margins. Also, the Quinnipiac survey found that 9 percent of those who name a candidate say they could change their mind by Nov. 2.

That makes the race too close to call, putting pressure on both candidates and their political parties to turn out their base voters.

All the polls anticipate a disproportionately higher number of Republicans casting ballots this year, but Sink leads anyway thanks to the support of independent voters, who decide close Florida elections. Also, registered Democrats greatly outnumber registered Republicans in Florida.

"A very large Republican turnout margin seems to be the only shot Scott has to win this race," Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said in an analysis.

Coker's poll shows Sink with a 51-37 advantage over Scott among independent voters. Quinnipiac's independent split: 42 percent for Sink and 37 percent for Scott. Those two polls show that a higher proportion of Republicans will vote for Sink than Democrats will vote for Scott.

But Rasmussen remains one of the only public polls that shows independents and third-party voters favor Scott, albeit narrowly by a 45-41 percent split. Another difference: Rasmussen surveyed a far higher proportion of Republicans than Democrats than did the other two polls.

In Miami, Sink campaigned along with Republican supporters, state Sen. Alex Villalobos and former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo — who ripped into Scott's record with HCA.

"I love this state, I was born and raised here and I don't want to go the way of crime, frankly," Villalobos said.

Dubbing Scott "the kingpin of Medicare fraud," Carollo warned that electing Scott ''would be the worst thing to happen to Florida."

"It will bring shame and embarrassment not only nationwide, but worldwide to Florida if we allow him to buy his way into the governorship with over $70 million of tainted Medicare money," he said.

Sink said little about her opponent, but told reporters before the event that she believes voters are pulling her way.

"We said all along it was going to be a competitive race right until the very end, and I really feel the momentum picking up among my supporters," Sink said as she arrived at Scotty's Landing in Miami. "People are enthusiastic to go to the polls on Tuesday and vote for a better future for Florida with Alex Sink."

Scott, who on Thursday hop-scotched across Central Florida, continued to slam Sink for her gaffe during Monday night's debate. Sink received a smart phone message, by way of a makeup artist, during a commercial break. The two candidates had agreed not to allow such messages during the debate, which was broadcast live on CNN across the country.

Scott's campaign said it launched a statewide ad to keep the debate flap alive. It uses a Sink ad in which she says, "If someone lies or cheats, I hold them accountable," and then strings together a series of media reports on the debate.

"The race is about integrity, and she's the one who brought it up. She's the one who said it's cheating,'' Scott said. "She cheated. The person didn't cheat. She looked at the thing."

In reacting to the polls, Scott was confident he would be victorious. 'If you look at the likely voters, and the absentee ballots and early voting, we're doing really well. We're going to win," he said.

If early and absentee votes are factored in, Republicans say GOP ballots cast so far outnumber Democrats by more than 400,000.

While Sink is contending with an enthusiasm gap, Scott needs to overcome a favorability gap.

The Mason-Dixon poll shows 52 percent of voters view him negatively, and only 30 percent view him positively. In the Quinnipiac poll, 50 percent of likely voters view Scott negatively and 34 percent view him positively. Rasmussen finds 50 percent of voters also view Scott negatively.

Quinnipiac and Mason-Dixon show that Sink is viewed more positively than negatively by voters. Rasmussen shows that she's viewed slightly more negatively, but she's still better liked than Scott.

Quinnipiac completed its survey Sunday; Mason-Dixon and Rasmussen finished their polls Wednesday — at the height of the debate controversy.

Pollsters say the flap probably won't change the race, but if the election comes down to just a few votes, any issue could make the difference.

In the Mason-Dixon poll of 625 likely voters, Sink leads Scott 46-43; 4 percent say they'll vote for another candidate and 7 percent are undecided. Error margin: 4 percentage points.

In the Quinnipiac poll of 784 likely voters, Sink leads Scott 45-41; 2 percent say they'll vote for someone else and 11 percent are undecided. Error margin: 3.5 percent percentage points.

In the Rasmussen survey of 750 likely voters, Scott leads 48-45; 3 percent prefer someone else; and 4 percent are undecided. Error margin: 4 percentage points.

Polls show a real nail-biter in Florida governor's race 10/28/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 29, 2010 8:44am]

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