Rep. Connie Mack has turned the race for U.S. senator from Florida on its heels, according to a new poll that shows him sweeping challengers in the Republican primary and setting up a statistical dead heat with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
Mack, son of the former U.S. senator, gets 32 percent in the new Quinnipiac poll to his Republican challengers' single-digit numbers, with none of the four getting above 9 percent. Mack gets 40 percent to Nelson's 42 percent in the poll.
In the race for the GOP nomination, former Sen. George LeMieux tops the list of Mack's challengers at 9 percent, with former army officer Mike McCalister garnering 6 percent, and 2 percent each for businessman Craig Miller and former state House Republican leader Adam Hasner.
“The entrance of Congressman Connie Mack into the Senate race changes what had been shaping up as an easy re-election for Sen. Bill Nelson into a tough fight that the incumbent could lose,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “The fact that Mack is essentially tied with Nelson, who has been a statewide political figure for two decades, should set off warning bells at Democratic headquarters.
“Although 45 percent of GOP voters, including 59 percent of GOP women, say they are undecided, Mack becomes the overwhelming favorite to win the Republican nomination,” Brown said. “Mack’s candidacy may force the other GOP contenders to reconsider whether they want to stay in the race.”
Although Nelson does well generally in his approval rating, 47 percent to 27 percent, Mack has clearly made the race competitive. Independent voters approve of Nelson 47 percent to 26 percent, but back him 42 percent to 34 percent in a 2012 matchup with Mack.
Both candidates carry their party bases similarly: Nelson wins Democrats, 78 percent to 8 percent; and Mack takes Republicans, 79 percent to 8 percent, according to the poll.
In a Nelson-Mack race, women are more likely to vote for Nelson 45 percent to 34 percent, but not men, who go with Mack 47 percent to 38 percent. Nelson loses whites who call themselves evangelical Christians 61 percent to 28 percent and loses among all whites 46 percent to 39 percent.
“In a race as close as the Nelson-Mack affair could become, how President Barack Obama does in the Sunshine State in his re-election could play a major role in deciding who wins the Senate seat,” said Brown.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1185 registered voters from Oct. 31 to Nov. 7. The margin of error is +/- 2.9 percentage points. The survey includes 513 Republicans with a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percent.
The poll also looked at Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s job approval. He continues to tank with a 36 percent approval rating, while 50 percent disapprove.
Among independent voters, considered the key to carrying Florida, Scott has a 56 percent to 29 percent disapproval rating. Scott gets a 67 percent to 22 percent thumbs up among Republicans, but a 73 percent to14 percent thumbs down from Democrats.
Scott does okay with men, who split 43 percent to 46 percent, but women are not as pleased, 55 percent to 30 percent.
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