Money talks; big ad buys affect poll results
BY BILL COTTERELL • FLORIDA CAPITAL BUREAU • JUNE 10, 2010
A new statewide poll shows Republican challenger Rick Scott has vaulted past Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum in the race for governor.
And Jeff Greene, another wealthy candidate financing his own first statewide race, has surged into a dead heat with U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami Gardens, in the U.S. Senate race.
"Mothers may tell their children that money can’t buy happiness, but what these results show is that money can buy enough television ads to make political neophytes serious contenders," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "It certainly doesn’t hurt with Greene or Scott that this is shaping up to be the year of the anti-establishment candidate."
The Quinnipiac Poll showed Scott, a wealthy Naples businessman who has been flooding television with advertisements, leading McCollum by double digits -- 44 percent to 31 percent -- in a GOP primary.
In the Democratic primary, Meek clings to a 29-27 percent lead over Greene, a Palm Beach County real estate investor who is another "deep pockets" newcomer financing his own campaign.
But there were large numbers of undecided voters in both parties. Quinnipiac said 60 percent in both parties said they could change their minds before the Aug. 24 primaries.
The winner of the Democratic Senate nomination will face Gov. Charlie Crist, running as an independent, and Republican Marco Rubio in November. The GOP nominee for goveror will face Democrat Alex Sink and independent Bud Chiles in the general election.
"Around the country, challengers to so-called career politicians seem to be doing well, and these showings by Scott and Greene certainly fit very well into that trend," said Brown.
Scott's television barrage has driven state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, out of the race. His former company, Columbia/HCA, paid the largest Medicare fraud fine in history, $1.7 billion, while Scott was in charge -- which he mentions in some of his advertising, while saying he took responsibility although he was not criminally charged.
McCollum has recently putting out daily statements about Scott's "fraud files." A Quinnipiac poll on Wednesday indicated either McCollum and Scott would beat Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the likely Democratic nominee for governor, or independent challenger Lawton "Bud" Chiles.
Arizona's controversial immigration law looks like a big factor. Quinnpiac found that 86 percent of Republicans approve of it, and Scott promises in his advertisements to bring such a law to Florida. Those ads also feature a quote from McCollum, saying "we don't need that law" in Florida.
Despite his former company's fraud penalties, the poll said 40 percent of Republicans view Scott favorably and 12 percent disapprove of him, while 46 percent didn't know enough about him to form an opinion. McCollum, a Republican congressman for 20 years now running his fourth statewide race, was viewed favorably by only 41 percent of Republicans and unfavorably by 19 percent with 36 percent not having an opinion.
The poll was conducted last week among 814 Republicans and 785 Democrats. It has a margin of error or plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
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