TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's low standing with voters persists in a new Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll, and he should be more concerned about a possible 2014 rematch against Democrat Alex Sink than a challenge from a remade Charlie Crist.
Scott still can't gain ground with his constituents even after a recent Republican Party TV ad blitz that emphasized his focus on improving schools.
An even 50 percent of voters in the poll disapprove of Scott's job performance, with 38 percent approving and 12 percent not sure. That's a slight change from a July Times/Herald/Bay News 9 poll in which 51 percent disapproved of Scott's job performance, 40 percent approved and 9 percent had no opinion.
The telephone survey of 800 registered voters, all likely to vote in November, was conducted Sept. 17-19 for the Times, Herald, El Nuevo Herald, Bay News 9 and Central Florida News 13.
The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon, a nonpartisan, Jacksonville-based company, and included respondents using land-line and cell phones. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The poll had ominous news for Crist, the Republican-turned-independent ex-governor who recently endorsed President Barack Obama's re-election. He retains sky-high name recognition of 96 percent but has lost much of his popularity, with voters now evenly divided on whether they like him.
Thelma Miranda of Palm City, a Republican and retired nursery owner, said she voted for Scott two years ago but would consider an alternative in 2014, especially a woman like Sink.
Miranda said she could not recall anything Crist did in four years as governor other than his marriage nearly midway through his term.
"I can't remember," she said. "He was a single fellow, and he got married. He's kind of wishy-washy. Maybe we do need a woman in there."
The poll also revealed that Crist's highly publicized endorsement of the president, including a prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention, has done nothing to help the president politically in Florida.
Only 8 percent of voters say they are more likely to vote for Obama because Crist endorsed him, and they already supported Obama. Another 13 percent say they are less likely to vote for the president because of Crist's action, and the remaining 79 percent say it doesn't matter.
In a hypothetical match-up for governor in 2014, Sink would beat Scott, 47 percent to 39 percent, with the rest undecided. Crist has a two-point edge over Scott in a similar match-up, 44 percent to 42 percent, but that's within the poll's margin of error.
"Alex Sink is much stronger against Scott in a rematch than Crist," pollster Brad Coker said. "(Scott's) dream race would be against Charlie Crist."
Sink is more popular than Crist, with a better than 2-to-1 favorability rating, but only 81 percent of voters recognized her name. When Sink narrowly lost to Scott in 2010, 98 percent of voters recognized her name.
A retired bank executive from suburban Tampa, Sink lost to Scott in 2010 by 1.2 percentage points, or about 60,000 votes out of more than 4 million cast. She is considering running again in 2014.
If Sink were to challenge Scott a second time, she would need to raise and spend millions of dollars just to reintroduce herself to a very forgetful Florida electorate.
Scott's incumbency makes him a formidable candidate in 2014, despite his sagging popularity.
But he needs more supporters such as Joan Morton, 85, a retired nurse in Ponte Vedra Beach near Jacksonville, and a Republican.
"He's doing everything he said he would do," Morton said. "I applaud him for that. He didn't go along with Obamacare. He said he wouldn't, and he didn't."
Andrew Ianniello, a retired IBM employee in Punta Gorda, said Scott is too extreme.
"Scott wants to privatize prisons and everything else, and a lot of people have lost their jobs because of that," said Ianniello, who moved south from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to escape the harsh winters. "There's been too much privatization going on."
Ianniello, 76, a self-described Ronald Reagan Democrat, said Scott favors the rich over the middle class.
He said he prefers Crist's moderate brand of politics and did not know anything about Sink — not even her gender.
"I don't see his name in the paper that much," Ianniello said. "What has he done?"
Times/Herald staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.