News Column

Mack, Nelson Close in Fla. US Senate Race

May 25, 2012

George Bennett

Florida flag
Florida flag

Sustained character attacks from Republican primary rival George LeMieux and hand-wringing by some GOP activists about his prospects in the general election don't appear to have damaged U.S. Rep. Connie Mack's U.S. Senate bid, according to new polls from Quinnipiac University and NBC News-Marist.

The Quinnipiac poll shows a virtual tie between Mack and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson while the Marist poll gives Nelson a 4-point lead.

The Marist poll also shows President Obama holding a 48-44 percent lead over Mitt Romney in Florida, while the Quinnipiac poll shows 46 percent of Floridians disapproving of Gov. Rick Scott's handling of his job, compared to 41 percent who approve. That's the first time Scott's job approval has topped 40 percent in a Quinnipiac poll, with the previous high a 50 percent disapproval to 38 percent approval in January.

The new Quinnipiac survey, released Thursday, also shows those opposing stricter gun control outnumbering those favoring it in three of the poll's four questions about guns. Most notably, 56 percent support Florida's stand-your-ground law while 38 percent oppose it. But to the question of whether concealed-weapons permit holders should be allowed to bring a gun into the state Capitol, 83 percent said no, compared to 14 percent who said yes.

The new Senate polls suggest the race has tightened since last month, when a Rasmussen poll gave Nelson an 11-point lead over Mack and the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Nelson up by 10 points. Quinnipiac's last Senate poll in late March had Nelson up by 8 points.

Quinnipiac's Senate poll shows Mack ahead by a 42-41 percent margin that's within the poll's 2.4 percent margin of error.

The Marist poll gives Nelson a 46-42 percent lead over Mack. That poll has a 3 percent margin of error.

In the Republican Senate primary, Quinnipiac shows Mack getting 40 percent to clobber either LeMieux (7 percent) or businessman Mike McCalister (8 percent). The survey was conducted May 15-21 and didn't include former Republican Rep. Dave Weldon, who announced his candidacy last Friday.

Quinnipiac's general election poll is based on a sample that Democrats say is too tilted to the GOP.

Using the same 1,722-voter sample, Quinnipiac released results Wednesday showing Romney leading Obama by 6 points in Florida. Democrats complained that while they hold a 40-36 percent statewide edge in voter registration, the weighted sample in the Quinnipiac poll was 34 percent Republican and 31 percent Democrat.

Quinnipiac's Peter Brown defended the poll, saying the way people self-identify their party affiliation is a better gauge of voter sentiment than how voters are actually registered.

"What we're getting is real-time party ID. And our real-time party ID is different, not surprisingly, from registration," Brown said Wednesday. "If party registration is an accurate measure of voting behavior, then why do the Republicans control, with the exception of Bill Nelson's seat, every statewide office?" Brown said Wednesday.

Marist's sample tilts more Democratic than statewide registrations, with 43 percent of respondents saying they are registered as Democrats and 35 percent Republican.

Source: (c) 2012 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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