Charlie Crist leads Gov. Rick Scott by 10 percentage points in a new poll of Florida voters that also indicates a majority of voters view the former governor's party-switching in a favorable light.
Separately, the Quinnipiac University poll also indicates a majority of Florida voters -- by 55-41 percent -- say illegal immigrants who graduate from Florida high schools should be eligible for in-state tuition rates. Voters also support gay marriage by 56-39 percent.
In the governor's race, the poll indicates Crist's 48-38 percent lead over Scott is reflected in three key areas: likability, trustworthiness and compassion.
Scott is spending at least $6.5 million in ads in two months, many of them negative, and might have already spent as much as $20 million, according to Crist's campaign.
"So far, Florida Gov. Rick Scott's television barrage apparently has had no impact on the race. The incumbent has not been able to reduce former Gov. Charlie Crist's lead. In fact, voters see Crist's party switch in a positive light and the incumbent's effort to tie Crist's support for Obamacare has not yet borne fruit," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a statement.
Republicans are sure to complain that the poll over-surveyed self-identified independents and didn't include enough Republicans (who account for just 25 percent of the sample but likely will be more than 40 percent of the ballot-casting electorate in November).
If the poll were adjusted to show Republicans and Democrats turning out a 41 percent each and independents at 18 percent, for instance, Crist's lead would be far smaller over Scott: about 4 percentage points, or 46-42 percent.
But such calculations, nicknamed "unskewing," are fraught with mathematical and statistical peril (no one knows what the electorate will look like, for instance) and shouldn't be taken as being superior to the poll. More here on unskewing and averaging polls and more here about Quinnipiac's polling techniques.
Other recent polls have shown a far closer race at this point, with Tampa Bay’s NBC affiliate, WFLA, reported Tuesday that Crist led Scott 44-41 percent in a SurveyUSA poll, an apparent decrease of the 46-41 percent the Democrat held in an April 15 poll from the same firm.
Update: A poll from Republican-leaning Gravis Marketing finds quite the opposite of Quinnipiac: A Scott lead of 1 point, 44-43 percent over Crist. Democrats will be sure to note that Gravis has consistently had outlier polls that lean heavily conservative. Its results were off in the presidential race in Virginia and Florida, where it also wrongly showed Connie Mack was close to Sen. Bill Nelson, who blew the Republican away by 13 points.
All recent major polls show little-known Democrat Nan Rich faring poorly against Scott, with Quinnipiac indicating she'd lose 36-42 percent. Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie was not polled by Quinnipiac.
Crist's campaign expects the race against Scott to be tight. The governor intends to spend $100 million and money like that often buys enough ad time to change poll numbers.
"Forget about the polls," Jim Messina, a Crist advisor who ran President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012 said in a recent email to supporters.
"One says we're up, another says we're down, a third says we're tied -- that crap is just noise," he wrote. "This race is going to come down to the wire. What will put us over the top is the grassroots organization we build together."