Florida's battleground special congressional election is too close to call, according to a survey conducted last week for a group backing Republican nominee David Jolly.
A new poll commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $800,000 on independent expenditures backing Jolly, shows the Republican slightly in front of Democrat Alex Sink — 44 percent to 42 percent — but the results are well within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
The only independent polling in the race, conducted by three local news outlets at the beginning of February, also showed Sink at 42 percent but had Jolly trailing by 7 points. Every survey in the race has confirmed that turnout is the key factor for both Sink and Jolly in the race to replace GOP Rep. Bill Young, whose death left open a seat he had held easily for decades but which President Obama carried twice thanks to steady demographic change.
Absentee voting in the St. Petersburg-area district has been underway for weeks now, and Republicans account for 42 percent of the ballots already returned. Democrats have returned 39 percent of the mail ballots so far. That 3-point gap, which mirrors the district's overall voter registration rates, may actually favor Sink, given that Florida Republicans typically build an advantage during absentee voting, as they did during the 2012 presidential election.
The chamber is just one of eight groups that have already spent six figures trying to sway the race before the March 11 special election. Total outside spending has climbed above $5.5 million, with millions more expected in the next few weeks.
Fort Lauderdale-based Fabrizio, Lee, and Associates conducted the new poll for the chamber, surveying 400 likely voters from Feb. 17-18.