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FL poll: McCollum, boosted by health fight, beating Sink

Attorney General Bill McCollum’s decision to sue the federal government over health care reform looks like a political winner, according to a new poll showing that he has widened his lead over state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the race for governor.

The Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey shows that 51 percent of registered Florida voters approve of McCollum’s lawsuit while 39 percent are opposed.

As the state appears to lean rightward, the Republican McCollum draws 49 percent support compared to the 34 percent who would vote for Sink, a Democrat, according to the poll of 625 registered Florida voters.

“The lawsuit probably gave McCollum a little lift and has put him in a strong position, but there’s more going on here,” said Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker.

“The numbers that jump out at me is that he’s peeling off 24 percent of Democrats. She only draws 3 percent Republican support,” Coker said. “Also, there’s no gender gap. That’s a problem for Sink. A Democratic woman can’t win without the strong support of women.”

The poll shows that McCollum beats his Republican primary challenger, Sen. Paula Dockery by 64 percent to 9 percent.

McCollum also looks as if he’s picking up momentum. Voters have begun to view McCollum in a better light, with 39 percent saying they have a favorable view of the attorney general – a 10 percentage-point increase since the last Mason-Dixon poll in June. In that time, Sink’s numbers haven’t moved, with 24 percent of voters expressing a favorable view of Sink.

Part of Sink’s political difficulty lies in the fact that she’s not as well known as McCollum, a career Congressman who has run in three statewide campaigns. Sink has only run once, in 2006.  Sink, who has avoided high-profile stances on health reform, recently has been touring the state promoting a jobs initiative.

Coker said Sink’s strategy is a wise one, considering that 47 percent of voters say job-creation is their top issue in the poll. The second-most important issue -- closing the state’s budget gap – garnered 15 percent support. Affordable healthcare ranked third, at 12 percent.

The poll shows that independent voters – the crucial swing vote in Florida elections -- are moving rightward, but they’re not supportive of every Republican position. Independents support, for instance, is crucial when it comes to the issue of the federal stimulus money Florida used to plug its budget gap.

Overall, thanks to the backing of independents, 50 percent of Floridians support the stimulus while 42 percent oppose it.  Men and Republicans are the strongest opponents of the stimulus and Democrats and women its major backers.  Still, there are doubts about the beneficial effects of the stimulus package.
A majority – 49 percent – believes the stimulus will not create or save a significant number of jobs. Only 32 percent believe it eventually will create jobs and only 9 percent say it has created or saved a significant number of jobs.

Other issues in the poll:

*Floridians by a 48-39 percent margin oppose the Republican-backed legislation to link teacher pay to student test scores.

*About 50 percent of voters want to weaken the state’s class-size amendment, but that’s not enough to win at the ballot box because Constitutional amendments can only pass if they’re approved by 60 percent of voters.

*By a 5 percentage-point margin, voters disapprove of Gov. Charlie Crist’s plan to buy $536 million worth of U.S. Sugar lands in the name of Everglades restoration. But 66 percent of voters support other Everglades projects while just 26 percent favor the U.S. Sugar deal.