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Fight is on for independent voters and swing regions in gov's race

Why Tampa? Democrat Alex Sink is choosing to run her one-time, two-minute television ad in the state's largest media market on Wednesday but it's also the region where the Tampa native has the greatest home-field advantage. 

So why not run the ad in nearby Orlando or the competitive South Florida? The results of the  Quinnipiac University poll out today offer some answers: the race for governor is a dead heat and the Orlando to Tampa I-4 corridor, and its notoriously influential swing voters, are crucial. No statewide candidate in recent history has won Florida without winning the region.

A poll by Mason-Dixon research last week showed Sink holding her own against Republican Rick Scottwith a 47-36 percentage point lead in the Tampa market. The Quinnipiac poll shows Sink ahead in the region 47-42 percentage points but, with a 6.3 percent margin of error, it's a statistical tie. What's more, the crucial independent voters -- whose numbers are highest in the I-4 region -- are swinging toward Sink. Of the independent voters, 43 percent view her favorably while only 34 percent have a favorable opinion of Scott -- numbers that mirror total voters..

Is dumping an estimated $50,000 in the Tampa/St. Petersburg market for a two-minute ad a no-brainer? Sink's strategists say they can't take the region for granted. Indeed, Gov. Charlie Crist carried Tampa Bay over fellow Tampa Bay opponent Jim Davis by 10-percentage points in 2006. Obama won the region by only 4 percentage points -- but he did win the region.

Sink's documentary-style ad, to be run during the 6 p.m. news slot on Tampa area stations Wednesday, dredges up allegations about Scott's former company and its now infamous $1.7 billion Medicare fraud fine.

The unusual ad's most ironic element: the voice of a protestor shouting "release the depositions," to Scott at an event. It's a reference to Scott's failure to release a deposition in which he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights 75 times in a case related to his health care chain, Solantic. The activist or actor was put there by Republicans hoping to help Scott's primary opponent Bill McCollum, and the fact that Sink is now using it against him has got to be haunting Republicans now siding with Scott.