Sen. Bill Nelson is doing an okay job in office, but he's not in the strongest of positions heading into the 2012 election season, a new poll from Quinnipiac University shows.
The survey also shows that President Barack Obama and his policies — the health care law and the war in Afghanistan he inherited — are less popular than Nelson, who has tried to distance himself from Obama on occasion.
By a 45-21 percent split, registered voters approve of Nelson's job performance, and 43 percent say he deserves re-election, the poll shows. Less than a third of the electorate want someone else.
"Sen. Nelson is not in terrific shape, but he is not in terrible shape, either," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "His fate may rest with how President Barack Obama does in 2012 as Florida voters see the two men similarly on the issues."
Exactly half of the electorate wants Obama's health care law repealed, and 43 percent want it to stand. Only 7 percent don't know.
Views are stronger about Afghanistan, with 54 percent saying the United States ''shouldn't be involved," while 38 percent say they should.
Overall, 49 percent of voters disapprove of Obama's job performance, and 47 percent approve. His popularity-rating figures are the opposite: 49 percent have a favorable opinion of the president, and 47 percent an unfavorable opinion.
The poll indicates Nelson is winning the center and has good support among independents — the crucial swing vote in Florida elections. They approve of Nelson by a 44-22 spread.
The Quinnipiac poll of 1,160 registered voters has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.
Expect Nelson's numbers to fluctuate over the coming months as Republicans, emboldened by their domination of Democrats in Florida and the nation, turn up the heat. Already, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos has announced a run against him. U.S. Rep. Connie Mack is considering a bid, as is former state House Republican leader Adam Hasner and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux.
The Republican Party's biggest Florida star, Sen. Marco Rubio, has approval numbers comparable to Nelson's.