Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Politics

Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll: Riding Romney's coattails, Mack edges closer to Nelson

RECOMMENDED READING


Start sweating, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Democrat leads Republican rival Connie Mack by only 3 points, 47 percent to 44 percent, in Florida's bellwether I-4 corridor, according to a new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll.

Mack — who is within the poll's margin of error — is gaining on the strength of Mitt Romney in Florida, the unpopularity of President Barack Obama's policies and Nelson's struggles to close the deal despite decades in public office.

But it may not be enough for Mack, said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll. "At the end of the day, if Nelson hangs on, I think it's going to be more about Mack losing it than Nelson winning," Coker said.

The I-4 corridor runs from Tampa Bay through Central Florida and is heavily concentrated with swing voters. Thus, it's a good measure of how the statewide vote might go. Nelson, who lives in Orlando, is losing by 1 percentage point in Central Florida, which tends to lean more Republican than Tampa Bay, where Nelson has a 7 point advantage.

Nelson leads among independent voters, 48 percent to 40, but 9 percent are undecided, the poll shows.

The telephone survey of 625 registered Florida voters — all likely to vote in the November election — was conducted Oct. 22-24 for the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13. The poll, which included respondents using land lines and cellphones, was conducted by Mason-Dixon, a nonpartisan, Jacksonville company. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Nelson once had a commanding lead in the race, but that has tightened in recent weeks, corresponding with a surging Romney in Florida. Mack, a congressman from Fort Myers, has hitched his campaign to Romney and coattails appear to be developing. In a statewide Times poll earlier this month, Nelson led by 5 points, down 3 points from September.

That is consistent with Senate races in other states, and while the Nelson seat has never factored much in Republican hopes of regaining control of the Senate, improving signs in Florida give a glint of hope.

Nelson has a 41 percent favorable rating and 35 percent unfavorable rating — weak numbers for a two-term incumbent, who has also served in the U.S. House and on the state level. Mack has a lower favorable rating, 31 percent, but his unfavorable rating is 34 percent.

Ominously for Nelson, 54 percent of voters said his performance on protecting the space program was fair or poor. Nelson once traveled into space and had long been associated with the issue. But NASA has a diminished presence in Florida due to budget cuts and shifting priorities.

Mack has his own problems.

Nelson has blistered him in TV ads for missing dozens of votes in the past year to campaign back in Florida. Half of the voters said Mack's attendance record made them less likely to support him.

Not Steve Schuler of Clearwater. He said he wasn't concerned about Mack missing work. "To me, I'd rather Sen. Bill Nelson doesn't show up for work. Sometimes I think it's a good thing when politicians don't show up."

He also doesn't mind Mack's past history of bar fights and other scrapes — issues Nelson has highlighted in ads. "I don't mind an aggressive personality; that's a good thing in a leadership position. You've got to be aggressive as long as it's controlled."

Schuler, 63, who owns a pet shop, said he voted for Nelson before but now aligns with the Republican Party and its focus on less regulation and lower taxes.

Nelson has long been risk-averse and kept his focus on Florida matters, no matter how small. It could be a saving grace, with 47 percent saying they trust Nelson to look out for Florida's interests versus 40 percent who said Mack would.

"When I needed Bill Nelson he was there for us, and I respect him," said Ellen Miller, 65, of Ocala, an independent voter who said Nelson helped her and her husband navigate a VA loan. "He's a nice person who's very knowledgeable and I trust him."

Patricia Ritter, 52, of Dunedin and a registered Democrat, said she respected Nelson backing up Obama. "It shows good character. I know a lot of people backed away from health care because they were afraid. You can't have a perfect candidate, but I think you're definitely going to get a better candidate in Nelson over Mack."

Fortunately, perhaps, for Nelson there are other candidates on the ballot: independents Chris Borgia and Bill Gaylor. The polls showed 2 percent of voters prefer someone other than Nelson or Mack. That could be the edge Nelson needs.

Times staff writer Brittany Alana Davis contributed to this report. Contact Alex Leary at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @learyreports.

Comments
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Updated: 11 hours ago
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17
As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Sunday that the White House is willing to remove a contentious provision taking aim at the Affordable Care Act from the GOP tax overhaul plan if politically necessary, a move ...
Published: 11/19/17

Many Christian conservatives are backing Alabama’s Roy Moore

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama’s Christian conservatives see Roy Moore as their champion. He has battled federal judges and castigated liberals, big government, gun control, Muslims, homosexuality and anything else that doesn’t fit the evangelical mold. ...
Published: 11/19/17
Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

WASHINGTON — It’s been nearly six years since the Senate Ethics Committee conducted a major investigation of a sitting senator. Next year, the panel could be working nonstop, deciding the fate of up to three lawmakers, including two facing allegation...
Published: 11/18/17
PolitiFact: Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Here’s why

PolitiFact: Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Here’s why

Before gobbling turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie — or engaging in a well-informed political spat with your family — some of you might wonder where the Thanksgiving tradition originated.We wondered, too. So we talked with historians to get the facts s...
Updated: 5 hours ago
In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

UTICA, N.Y.Pat Marino pulled into the shop on a cold, wet Thursday and stood close as a young mechanic with gelled-up hair and earrings lifted the truck and ducked underneath."You need a little bit more oil," the mechanic said."Five quarts wasn’t eno...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/20/17
Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners recently decided to go after the pocketbooks of several residents who filed unsuccessful ethics complaints against one of their colleagues.If history is any indicator, the maneuver is more likely to cost taxp...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/19/17