This is the primary election of millionaire outsiders, a new poll shows.
Republican Rick Scott holds an 11 percentage-point lead over Attorney General Bill McCollum in the GOP race for governor, a Quinnipiac University poll finds.
In the main statewide race for Democrats — the U.S. Senate contest — Jeff Greene is beating U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek by 10 percentage points, the poll shows.
Neither Greene nor Scott have held elected office before. McCollum has held or run for office for the past 30 years. Meek has been in Congress and the Legislature for more than a decade.
Both political newcomers have relied on a simple formula to outpace their rivals: Spend millions on television ads and watch your poll numbers rise. Greene has outspent Meek by an estimated $6 million. Scott has poured an estimated $30 million into his race, doubling what McCollum has spent.
“Money matters. You can go from nobody knowing you to becoming a front-runner if you spend enough,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“That’s not to say it’s only money,” Brown added. “The messages that Scott and Greene have been able to send to voters through record television ad spending have been effective.”
But Brown cautions that “anything can happen” leading up to the Aug. 24 primary. Voters haven’t completely made up their minds. And many don’t know for whom they’ll vote.
In the Democratic Senate race, more than a third of likely voters are undecided. And a majority — 54 percent — say they might change their minds.
In the Republican governor’s race, 23 percent of likely voters are undecided; 43 percent say they might change their minds; 55 percent say their minds are made up.
Because this poll only concerns the primary, it doesn’t have details on independent Gov. Charlie Crist and Republican Marco Rubio in the Senate race, which will be decided in the Nov. 2 general election. Nor does the poll include questions about Democrat Alex Sink or independent Bud Chiles in the general-election governor’s race.
The poll results are particularly bad for McCollum, who trails Scott 43-32 in the survey.
McCollum was cruising toward the Republican nomination before Scott blindsided him and started bashing McCollum as a career politician. That’s a particularly effective attack in a Republican race, the poll shows.
By a 54-28 margin, Republican voters say they’d prefer an outsider to someone with experience. But it gets worse for McCollum. By double-digit margins, the poll shows, Republicans believe Scott will do a better job than McCollum in rebuilding Florida’s economy and they believe Scott is more conservative and reflects their values better than McCollum does.
Also, an equal number of voters have favorable and unfavorable views of McCollum: 34 percent. Just one month ago, in Quinnipiac’s last poll, only 19 percent of likely voters had an unfavorable view of McCollum and 41 percent had a favorable view of him. And more than a quarter of the GOP electorate says they haven’t heard enough about him — a problem for a candidate who has been on a statewide ballot in three previous elections.
More voters hold a favorable view of Scott than an unfavorable view. But that’s likely to change. The Republican establishment in the state Capitol backs McCollum and is dumping millions into a handful of special election committees that are starting to bash Scott for, among other things, leading a hospital company that ultimately paid a record $1.7 billion fraud fine.
The ads are nasty, but less prolific, in the Democratic Senate race. Greene has attacked Meek as “corrupt” for his ties to a Miami developer. And Meek has fired back, calling Greene a carpetbagger who profited from the real estate meltdown while homeowners suffered.
Meek trails Greene by a 33-23 margin, the poll shows. In Quinnipiac’s last poll, June 10, Meek was edging Greene by a 29-27 margin.