First a confession: For most of the past year, my gut has told me that Rick Scott would likely win a second term and that there was a reasonable likelihood it wouldn't even be close. Around the start of October, as Charlie Crist was not only still standing but actually neck and neck or ahead of the incumbent governor, it became clear this race is a coin toss and Crist might actually pull it off.
Now I'm thinking Crist may have become the clear frontrunner.
I have just seen an internal poll of likely voters in Florida House 36, the west Pasco County district currently represented by Democrat Amanda Murphy and formerly represented by Republican Mike Fasano. District 36, loaded with working class Floridians and retirees may be the single best bellwether state House district in Florida. Barack Obama narrowly won it in 2008 and 2012, and Rick Scott narrowly won it in 2010.
The telephone poll was taken Monday and Tuesday by the Democratic firm SEA Polling & Strategic Design (which nailed it on Murphy's special election win in 2013) and found 45 percent planning to vote for Crist, 37 percent for Scott, and 14 percent for Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. In August, the firm showed Scott leading by five points, with 43 percent support to 38 percent for Crist and 10 percent for Wyllie.
Look inside the numbers and it's still worse for the Republican governor:
***Crist leads among voters 65 and over by 8 percentage points.
***Crist is winning nearly one in four Republicans in the district, while Scott is winning 13 percent of Democrats.
***Crist leads among women by a whopping 19 percentage points.
In the final month of the campaign, Scott no longer has such an overwhelming advantage in money. And unless District 36 has suddenly stopped reflecting the overall Florida electorate or the poll by the well-respected Tom Eldon is out of whack, these numbers should set off alarm bells at the already increasingly anxious Scott campaign headquarters.
Murphy, by the way, is leading her Republican challenger, Chris Gregg, 50 percent to 38 percent.
Only 42 percent of voters there have a favorable view of President Obama (52 percent unfavorable), but even that is better than Gov. Scott who running ads linking Crist to Obama but is viewed favorably by 36 percent and unfavorably by 56 percent. Crist is not exactly popular, with only 43 percent viewing him favorably and 48 percent unfavorably.
Then there's Duke Energy, which is view unfavorably by 65 percent of the voters there (even though roughly half are served by Withlacoochie River Electric). Only 17 percent view Duke favorably. No wonder Democrats are eager to wrap Duke Energy around Rick Scott's neck. The utility giant is a pretty handy foil for Crist, who also enjoys potent support in Republican Mike Fasano.
Only 5 percent - not a typo! - of voters have an unfavorable view of the the Pasco tax collector and Crist supporter who used to represent that area in the legislature, while 63 percent view Fasano favorably.
This is Florida, so anything can happen, and statewide races tend to be excruciatingly close. But based on the mood in west Pasco County, Rick Scott appears to be in much deeper trouble than a lot of us realized.