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Poll: Scott battling Sink, image

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By Jim Saunders
10/28/2010 © Health News Florida

In the final days of this fall's neck-and-neck race for Florida governor, Republican Rick Scott faces two foes: Democrat Alex Sink and an unfavorable image among many voters.

That was evident today in a new Quinnipiac University poll that shows Sink taking a slight lead over Scott as the candidates barrel toward Tuesday's election. The Democrat led by a margin of 45 percent to 41 percent --- though a large number of voters said they remain undecided or could change their minds.

"Although the governor's race remains very close, (state) CFO Alex Sink has had a good week," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "But with one in eight voters still in play and Scott's supporters slightly more solid in support, this race looks like it will go to the finish line as a dead heat.''

Perhaps the biggest problem for Scott is that 50 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of him, while only 34 percent say they have a favorable view. That compares to 43 percent of voters having a favorable view of Sink and 39 percent having an unfavorable view.

Opponents have hammered Scott for months about his role as chief executive of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain in the 1990s. After he left the company, it was forced to pay $1.7 billion because of Medicare fraud.

Sink has tried to spread the idea that voters can't trust Scott, who says he was unaware of the fraud and is proud of the hospital company that he built.

But even with Scott's upside-down favorability numbers, the race is extremely close --- which Brown attributed, at least in part, to motivated Republican voters.

"The relatively wide gap between Scott's unfavorable rating and his support in the horse race against Ms. Sink is unusual and probably reflects the Republican leaning of the electorate," Brown said in a written statement accompanying the poll results.

Also, Brown said it is "perhaps surprising'' that Sink, who is trying to become the state's first female governor, is not doing better among women voters. She has the support of 46 percent of women, while Scott gets 38 percent.

Quinnipiac, which is based in Connecticut, regularly conducts polls in Florida and other states. An Oct. 12 poll showed the governor's race virtually deadlocked, with Scott leading 45 percent to 44 percent.

The poll released today also gave Republican Marco Rubio a seven-point advantage in the state's high-profile race for a U.S. Senate seat. Rubio had the support of 42 percent of voters, while independent Charlie Crist received 35 percent and Democrat Kendrick Meek got 15 percent.

Quinnipiac conducted the poll before final debates in the gubernatorial and Senate races this week. It surveyed 784 likely voters from Oct. 18 to 24, and the poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Capital Bureau Chief Jim Saunders can be reached at 850-228-0963 or by e-mail at jim.saunders@healthnewsflorida.org.