GOP gubernatorial race remains tight, poll shows

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 at 11:53 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - Attorney General Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher are statistically even in their bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, while U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson would defeat U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris in 2006 if that election were held today, a new poll shows.
In a survey of 1,187 registered Florida voters taken between Aug. 23-29 by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, 57 percent said they favored Democrat Nelson in the Senate race to 33 percent for Harris, who is the only declared Republican in that race. That sample included a margin of error of plus and/or minus 2.8 percentage points.
Harris, who was Florida's secretary of state during the raucous 2000 presidential recount, was viewed unfavorably by 30 percent compared to 22 percent who saw her in a favorable light. Forty percent saw Harris as too partisan and divisive.
''She has a very negative image and has to work to get herself known as an effective congresswoman,'' poll spokesman Clay Richards said Wednesday.
Nelson, however, could be vulnerable in his re-election bid.
''He still is not a dynamic, powerful incumbent,'' Richards said. ''And Florida is used to having powerful Democratic incumbents.''
Nelson received a 49 percent approval rating from the respondents while Republican first-year U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez had a 45 percent job approval.
Among 430 Republicans queried in the poll, 39 percent said they backed Gallagher compared to 36 percent for Crist.
Although the difference was within the survey's margin of error of plus and/or minus 4.5 percentage points, it was a change from Quinnipiac's late June survey that showed Crist with 43 percent to Gallagher's 31 percent.
Half of the 379 Democrats surveyed said they leaned to ''don't know'' in their party's gubernatorial contest.
''These are not people who are well enough known to appeal to the majority of the party at this point,'' Richards said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa received the backing of 19 percent, compared to 16 percent for former state Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox of Tallahassee and 11 percent for state Sen. Rod Smith of Alachua.
The man they want to succeed, Gov. Jeb Bush, continued to enjoy a favorable rating with 53 percent approving of his job performance compared to 39 percent who disapproved.
The governor fared notably better than his older brother, President George W. Bush.
The president received a 42 percent favorable compared to 54 percent who said they did not like the way he is handling the job. Fifty-five percent disapproved of President Bush's handling of the Iraq situation and 53 percent said it was wrong to have become involved in the first place.
However, only a third said they would be likely to vote for Bush if he sought the GOP's presidential nomination in 2008 compared to 45 percent who said they would likely vote for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton.

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