Poll: Scott leading McCollum in governor's race

TALLAHASSEE — Naples millionaire businessman Rick Scott has surged into a double-digit lead over Attorney General Bill McCollum in their race for the Republican nomination for governor, a poll released Thursday shows.

The Quinnipiac (Conn.) University poll has Scott with a 13-point lead over McCollum, a career politician whose campaign has struggled despite recent television ads featuring former Gov. Jeb Bush on his behalf.

Scott, a former chief executive officer of the for-profit hospital chain Columbia/HCA, was favored with 44 percent to McCollum’s 31 percent in a poll of 814 likely Republican voters conducted June 2-8.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points and is a snapshot of voter preferences at the time they are polled.

Scott told The Associated Press on Thursday that moving ahead in the poll will only further motivate him to stay on a message that apparently has resonated with Republican voters.

“My job is to continue to talk about what I believe in and let people know what I believe in so when they elect me they know what they have as their governor,” Scott said. “Our goal is to make sure I have enough money and raise enough money to make sure our message gets out.”

McCollum’s campaign was still confident he could overcome the poll deficit.

“As Florida voters learn more about the real Rick Scott, his support will evaporate,” McCollum campaign spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said.

A 57-year-old Illinois native who has lived in Florida since 2003, Scott has rocketed to prominence from political anonymity in just two months as a result of a massive buy of television advertising to introduce himself to voters. He would not put a number on his personal contributions, but estimates are well north of $10 million.

But Scott’s willingness to spend part of his personal fortune the saturation advertising seems to be paying off.

“What this shows is the power of television advertising and the weakness of Bill McCollum as a statewide candidate,” said Rick Fogelsong, professor of politics at Rollins College in Winter Park. “Bill McCollum appears to lack the magnetism to attract much popular support despite the fact that he’s someone very well versed in public policies. He doesn’t seem to sell himself well to voters.”

Scott supports the Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigrants and is a critic of President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

One of Scott’s television ads has already responded to charges from political opponents blaming him for his role in a massive Medicare fraud case that occurred while he was the CEO at Columbia/HCA.

“When you’re CEO of a company you have to take responsibility for mistakes that were made on your watch,” Scott conceded in an interview last month.

After being forced out at Columbia/HCA, Scott began an investment firm and eventually co-founded a chain of walk-in medical clinics that featured prices for different treatments listed like a menu at a fast-food restaurant.

The Scott-McCollum winner in the Aug. 24 primary election will face Democrat Alex Sink and independent Bud Chiles in a three-way general election on Nov. 2.

A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday also showed Scott ahead in that contest if the election were held now.