Former state House Speaker Marco Rubio is even further ahead of Gov. Charlie Crist in the race for Florida’s Republican Senate nomination.
A new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of likely Republican primary voters shows Rubio with a 56 percent to 34 percent lead over Crist. Only 1 percent prefer some other candidate, and 8 percent remain undecided.
The two candidates were tied in December, but Rubio has been gaining momentum since. In January, Rubio moved out to a 49 percent to 37 percent lead. Last month, he posted a 54 percent to 36 percent advantage over Crist. In August, Crist had 53 percent support.
The latest numbers show Rubio has not lost any ground despite recent questions about his office expenditures while in the state Legislature.
Crist insists he's staying in the race as a Republican rather than running as an independent, as some have suggested. The first Rasmussen Reports survey of a potential three-way Senate race shows Rubio earning 45 percent of the vote to likely Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek's 25 percent, with Crist in third at 22 percent.
Florida Republicans will pick their nominee in an Aug. 24 primary.
Rubio has gained more support from women this month and now leads Crist 50 percent to 34 percent after the candidates were tied last month. Rubio continues to hold a strong lead among men.
Crist, an early favorite in the race, was the choice of the party establishment but angered conservatives when he was one of the few Republicans to endorse President Obama’s $787-billion economic stimulus plan. Rubio, initially a long-shot contender, was quickly embraced by the so-called tea party movement, and Crist's support has been falling ever since.
Just 15 percent of likely Republican Primary voters view Crist as very favorably, while 10 percent view him very unfavorably.
Republicans feel more strongly about Rubio, with 39 percent who regard the former House speaker very favorably. Only 5 percent view Rubio very unfavorably.
Yet although just 1 percent have no opinion of Crist, 16 percent of primary voters still don't know Rubio well enough to express even a soft favorable or unfavorable view of him.
At this stage of the campaign, Rasmussen Reports considers the very favorable and very unfavorable figures more significant than the overall favorability totals.
Republicans also remain evenly divided in their opinions of the governor’s job performance. Although 49 percent approve of Crist’s performance, 48 percent disapprove. These ratings are nearly identical to those of a month ago.
Both men are vying to be the Republican nominee in this year’s race to fill the seat vacated when GOP Sen. Mel Martinez retired. In August, Crist as governor named his chief of staff, George LeMiuex, to serve the remainder of Martinez’s term, but LeMieux is not running for a full term.
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