Gov. Charlie Crist's popularity among Republicans has dropped "significantly'' over the past year, leaving him 11 points behind Marco Rubio among Republican primary voters, a new poll shows.
The former House speaker holds a 48-37 percentage point lead over Crist among likely GOP primary voters, while 15 percent remain undecided, according to the poll released Friday by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc.
The gap isn't as wide as other polls suggest but tracks a stunning reversal for Crist who led Rubio -- 53 points to Rubio's 47 points -- in a similar poll in May 2009. But that poll showed Crist's lead was based on name recognition. The two were tied last June among GOP voters who were familiar with both candidates, pollster Brad Coker said.
Rubio's rise, he said, has been accompanied by a major boost in name recognition among Republicans: 10 months ago, only about half of the GOP primary electorate had heard of Rubio. Now his recognition is up to 87 percent among those surveyed.
And his favorable rating has nearly doubled, from 24 percent to 42 percent, with a negative rating of 10 percent.
"Rubio got around the state on the chicken dinner circuit, got a good message and Charlie Crist made some stupid moves,'' Coker said. "Rubio is now in control of the race … that's not in dispute.''
Crist's press secretary Amanda Henneberg rapidly shot back: "Polls will continue to fluctuate throughout this campaign. However, voters are just beginning to see the real Marco Rubio, as opposed to the idealized version of the Speaker that is based on rhetoric alone. This campaign is clearly shifting into a debate on character, and as even more of Speaker Rubio’s real record is revealed, it is clear Florida Republicans will turn to the proven conservative leader, Charlie Crist, to carry our Party once more to victory in November."