TALLAHASSEE — The Democrats' candidate for Florida governor, Alex Sink, has lost ground to Republican rival Bill McCollum and now trails him 34-38 percentage points, according to Quinnipiac University's latest poll of registered Florida voters.
In June, the numbers were the reverse: Sink led McCollum 38-34.
The latest poll doesn't give much of an indication as to why voters seem to be shifting away from Sink, the state's chief financial officer, and toward McCollum, Florida's attorney general. However, more people are familiar with McCollum, the poll shows.
"Bill McCollum has been on the ballot in Florida for decades in various campaigns and this exposure to the voters seems to be serving him well,'' Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Connecticut-based university's polling institute, said in a written statement.
"Floridians know him better than they do Ms. Sink, who first ran for office in 2006,'' Brown said. "When voters are asked to rate him personally and in his job performance as attorney general, he gets strongly positive ratings.''
Another problem for Sink: It seems women might not know she's a woman. The poll shows that McCollum has a slight lead among female voters over Sink, 34-37. But with more than a year to go until the 2010 elections, expect all of these numbers to shift.
A poll released earlier this week by the Florida Chamber of Commerce showed that Sink trailed McCollum by 9 percentage points. The chamber poll surveyed 605 likely Florida voters and had an error margin of 4 percentage points. The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,136 registered voters with an error margin of 2.9 percentage points.
If the race for U.S. Senate were held today, the Quinnipiac poll indicates Gov. Charlie Crist would blow out his Republican rival in the primary, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, by 55-26. The number is virtually unchanged since June.
Rubio is largely an unknown, with 74 percent saying they haven't heard enough about him. The Democratic contenders, U.S. Reps. Kendrick Meek, Corrine Brown and Ron Klein aren't well-known statewide.
Not only is Crist well-known, he's well-liked.
Though myriad problems with the economy unfolded on his watch, about 60 percent of voters approve of the job he's doing. Crist's support is strongest among Republicans, suggesting that the handful of county Republican Party revolts against Crist and the state party he controls aren't having much of an effect among rank-and-file voters.
Strong support among Democrats also suggests that the Senate seat is his to lose. "History is not rife with examples of governors with 60 percent job approval ratings, including 66 percent in their own party and 54 percent from the opposition party, being defeated when they sought U.S. Senate seats,'' Brown said. "Obviously, we have 15 months until the election and a year before the Republican primary, but Gov. Crist remains in very strong shape.''
Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com.