A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday has some good news for former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist should he decide to run against his successor in Florida. Crist, who switched his party registration late last year, leads GOP Gov. Rick Scott, 50 percent to 34 percent, in a potential general election matchup.
Crist told WFOR-TV in Miami earlier this month that he was giving "serious thought" to a bid for the Democratic nomination. Many state Democrats have suggested that with his advantages in name identification and fundraising abilities, Crist would be the likely frontrunner in the primary field.
While some have speculated that Crist's past Republican affiliation could hurt him in a primary, 76 percent of Democratic voters surveyed said the move was a "positive thing because it shows he is a pragmatist who can change with the times and issues," while just 13 percent of Democratic respondents said it was "a negative thing because it shows he has no core beliefs."
The poll also tested 2010 Democratic nominee Alex Sink against Scott. Sink lost to Scott by about 61,500 votes in 2010, but she leads him, 45 percent to 34 percent, in the poll. Sink has suggested that she’s leaning against running, telling the AP last month that "right this minute, if you're asking me, it's off the table. I'm not prepared to say, 'No I'm not,' but I'm much further away from a run today than I was three months ago." Sink's husband, Bill McBride, a former gubernatorial candidate himself, passed away in December.
Just 32 percent of voters said they believe Scott deserves to be reelected, a slight uptick from Quinnipiac's last survey, in mid-December, when 30 percent of voters said he deserved reelection. But the number of voters who said he does not deserve to be reelected also ticked up, from 52 percent to 55 percent.
Scott's approval rating remains underwater, with 36 percent of registered voters saying they approve of his job performance, the same number as in the December poll. Forty-nine percent of voters said they disapprove of the job Scott is doing, a slight increase from the 45 percent who said they disapproved in the December survey.
In a hypothetical Republican primary matchup, Scott leads state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam 47 percent to 24 percent. There has been speculation that Putnam, a former congressman, could challenge Scott, but Putnam spokesman Trey McCarley told the Orlando Sentinel that Putnam has "constantly said he is looking forward to seeking re-election as Commissioner of Agriculture."
Scott would have a sizable advantage in fundraising and name recognition against a primary challenger. But he has recently come under fire from Putnam and other members of his party for embracing a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, as well as showing support for an across-the-board teacher pay raise and increasing the number of early voting days.
The poll did not test a potential Democratic primary between Crist and Sink.
The Quinnipiac poll, conducted March 13-18, surveyed 1,000 registered voters. It has a margin or error of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points. For the subsample of 353 Republicans, the margin of error is plus-or-minus 5.2 percentage points.