Rick Scott Moves Into the Lead in Florida

Posted by Sean Trende, Real Clear Politics

During the late summer, it seemed that Florida CFO Alex Sink was poised to be the state’s next governor, giving the Democrats a valuable pick-up in one of the most important swing states in the country. She led handily in most polls, and her opponent, Rick Scott, had emerged battered from a fierce primary against Attorney General Bill McCollum. At one point in mid-September, Sink led by 6 points in the RCP Average.

But the worm seems to have turned, and now Scott leads by 1.6 points in the RCP Average. What changed?

Two things: First, pollsters started imposing a likely voter screen. Of the five polls in the present RCP Average, two are using likely voter screens for the first time. In an environment like this where Republicans are quite a bit more likely to respond that they are going to vote than are Democrats, such a switch will make the polling average appear to move rightward, even if the mood of the electorate is essentially unchanged.

The second thing that has changed is that Scott has probably solidified his base. Sink’s numbers have actually been quite stable. Likely voter polls have had her around the mid-40s percent since mid-August. Scott’s numbers, on the other hand, have moved from the low 40s to where they are now, approaching 50.

I suspect that since Sink did not have major primary opposition, as Scott did, she did not have any problems consolidating the support of her base at the outset. Scott, however, probably had to win over some McCollum voters. The latest Quinnipiac poll suggests that both candidates are now at parity, with about 87 percent of their respective parties voting for them. This stands in contrast with a mid-August PPP (D) poll showing Scott receiving only 57 percent of the Republican vote, while Sink received 72 percent of the Democratic vote. The comparison isn’t perfect, since independent Bud Chiles was in the race at the time, but Chiles seems to have drawn Republicans and Democrats to his cause almost equally.

So this isn’t really so much a story of Sink sinking as it is Scott rising.

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