By JIM SAUNDERS
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, September 24, 2014……….With pollsters saying Florida’s gubernatorial race is too close to call, a survey released Wednesday shows Republican incumbent Rick Scott with a slight lead over Democrat Charlie Crist.
The Quinnipiac University poll said 44 percent of likely voters support Scott, while 42 percent back Crist and 8 percent support Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. In a two-man contest, 46 percent of voters back Scott and 44 percent support Crist.
Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said the race could come down to independent voters and Wyllie supporters. He said Republican and Democratic voters have lined up behind their parties’ candidates. That includes Democrats supporting Crist, a former GOP governor.
“The two voter groups that will tell the tale of the election are independent voters and those who are backing Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie,” Brown said in comments released with the poll. “Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist are doing about the same with their respective party bases, and former Republican Crist is not having any trouble being accepted by members of his new party.”
Brown added: “Wyllie voters are the bigger unknown because there is little way of predicting if they will stay with the third-party challenger or decide to switch to Scott or Crist in order to be with a winner.”
Crist led the race in a series of earlier Quinnipiac polls, but the Connecticut-based university cautioned against comparing Wednesday’s results with the earlier surveys. That is because Wednesday’s poll was conducted of likely voters, while the earlier polls were conducted of registered voters, an important distinction.
Nevertheless, the Quinnipiac results mirror other recent polls that showed Scott closing a gap in the race or taking a narrow lead. That shift, in part, has come amid a deluge of negative television ads on both sides.
“When fewer than four in 10 voters think both the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor are honest, you know this has been one of the nastiest races in state history,” Brown said. “They have been throwing so much mud that they both are covered in it.”
Quinnipiac, which frequently conducts polls in Florida and other states, surveyed 991 likely Florida voters from Sept. 17 to Sept. 22. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.