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Q poll of voters last week: Sink edges Scott 45-41 with 11 percent undecided

Voters surveyed last week by Quinnipiac University favored Democrat Alex Sink over Republican Rick Scott by 45 to 41 percent, with 11 percent of the voters still undecided. But the survey of 784 likely voters, just released this morning, was taken Oct. 18-24, and completed one day before the debate flap, that has consumed the race for governor, went viral.

The survey also shows that Republican Marco Rubio holds a steady lead against challengers, Gov. Charlie Crist, who is not affiliated with any party, and Democrat Kendrick Meek. Rubio is favored by 42 percent of voters, compared to Crist's 35 percent and Meek's 15 percent, according to the poll. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

In the tight race for governor, the numbers were clearly pivotal as 9 pecent of those surveyed said they might change their mind by election day. "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,'' said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Since the poll, Sink and Scott conducted their last debate and the differences that emerged from the candidates and their messages have since been drown out by the fallout over a Sink aide attempting to send a message to her during the debate through the hair stylist at the break. Rather than have it delivered verbally as it was intended, the stylist showed Sink a cell phone text message, violating the rules of the debate which prohibited notes.

Sink and Scott, both inexperienced campaigners, have been walking on eggshells for months to avoid an embarrassing gaffe that could damage their campaign. Despite her caution, the debate flap forced Sink to immediately removed May, an unpaid political consultant, from the campaign and Scott's campaign pounced on it, labeling it a cheating scam.

Sink has spent the last two days responding to the flap after debate moderater John King of CNN concluded that Sink knew what she was being sent. It took Sink's campaign two days to persuade the media that it was not she that cheated, and they unwound the video, frame by frame, to show that she did not realize why she was being handed the phone.  

The lead for governor has teetered-tottered back and forth in the last month, with an Oct. 12 Quinnipiac Poll showing Scott ahead 45 percent to Sink's 44 percent. By contrast, Rubio has held a comfortable margin for weeks, although the poll shows that Crist has cut into it slightly as Meek's supporter gradually move to Crist.

“With his supporters less likely to change their minds than those of his two opponents, Marco Rubio is in the driver’s seat with only five days to go until Election Day,'' Brown said.

In the governor's race, independent voters continue to be the ones that are likely to make a difference on Election Day, the poll shows. As of last week, 42 percent favored Sink and 37 percent favored Scott. But the survey also revealed that despite the anti-Washington sentiment, and the president's low approval ratings, a larger percentage of Republicans are fleeing to Sink -- 17 percent -- than Democrats are moving to Scott -- 8 percent. 

One thing Sink does have, however is a lock on the women vote, Brown said. The poll shows that 46 percent of women favor Sink while 38 percent favor Scott, while Scott has a slight 45-44 percent edge among men. 

“Given that Ms. Sink would become Florida’s first female governor, the lack of a larger gender gap is perhaps surprising,” Brown said.  “She has some momentum, but anything can happen in the final days before Election Day.”