TALLAHASSEE — Republican Marco Rubio continues his steady lead in the three-way race for U.S. Senate, as his opponents continue to duke it out for the Democratic vote, according to a poll released Thursday by Mason-Dixon Research.
The statewide poll of 625 Florida voters shows that Rubio has the support of 42 percent of likely voters.
Independent Charlie Crist has 27 percent, while Democrat Kendrick Meek has 21 percent, both slightly lower than they were two weeks ago, the poll shows.
“As long as Rubio can stay in those low 40s, I just don’t know how the math works for either of them,” said pollster Brad Coker.
Rubio has a strong base of support among Republican voters — 81 percent — while he and Crist are nearly even among independents with Rubio getting 35 percent of those voters and Crist 36 percent.
Meek leads Crist by 42 percent to 37 percent among Democrats, the poll shows, down slightly from his 45 percent to 36 percent margin of two weeks ago.
Coker said that although Crist has started his television advertising in the last week, “it’s apparent effect has only been to improve his support among independents.”
But Crist ads do seem to be hurting him with Republicans, who have been steadily moving away from the governor over the past two months.
“Crist’s numbers are going down. It’s not a good trend,” Coker said.
His decision to leave the Republican party “would have played well if he were some kind of a newcomer to politics but he’s been a Republican for so long, people see his abandonment of the Republican Party as self-serving.
“He would have been better off going to the Democratic side and running in the Democratic Party. But he was going willing to go half in.”
The poll was conducted Oct. 4 - 6 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald writer, can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com.