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Biz poll: Charlie Crist lead cut to 44-43% over Rick Scott, who closes gap by 3 points

@MarcACaputo

Gov. Rick Scott has closed the gap with Democrat Charlie Crist in a new statewide survey from a business interest showing the two candidates are virtually tied, 43-44 percent.

Crist’s 1 percentage point lead represents a net decline of 3 percentage points since the last time the business interest polled in February; The Miami Herald reported those results as well after agreeing to keep the source of the information private.

In February, Crist led Scott 42-38 percent in a poll taken by the group. The 1,000-person likely voter survey does differ in both technique and results from Quinnipiac University’s late April poll, which showed Crist up by 10 – a net 2 point increase since January.

So, partisans, pick your polls (although not everyone: Libertarian Adrian Wyllie wasn't polled nor was Democratic candidate Nan Rich).

What’s indisputable is that, Scott has led Crist in one clear category, TV advertising, where the governor has spent at least $8 million to the former governor’s 0 since March.

Crist is fundraising well but can’t financially match the powers of incumbency. That gives Scott ample time to advertise himself in a positive light and Crist in a negative light without any paid media opposition.

The likely effect of the ads (assuming they’re having an effect): Republicans are coming home to Scott and leaving Crist, which we noted last month was a probability.

In the February poll, Scott earned just 68 percent of the Republican vote to Crist’s 16 percent. Now Scott has 79 percent of the GOP vote to Crist’s 11 percent. That’s a net increase of 16 percentage points in Scott’s favor.

One troubling sign for Scott: independent/other-party voters haven’t really moved. They favor Crist 42-35 percent (yesterday’s McLaughlin & Associates poll for a Republican group showed Scott winning this group, however).

This business interest’s poll, unlike many of the others, appeared to closely model the likely make-up of the mid-term electorate: 42 percent of respondents are Republican, 40 percent Democrat and 18 percent independent/other.

Also, it analyzed different turnout scenarios. Crist wins by 2, 6 and 4 points under 2006, 2008 and 2012 models, respectively (note: only 06 is a midterm). Under a 2010 scenario (a midterm but high watermark for the GOP), Scott wins by 2.

Adding this poll and McLaughlin’s to the other polls that we previously aggregated and averaged, Crist’s lead drops to about 1.6 percentage points from 2.4 points. Crist wins by 0.62 points under an ’06 model, loses by 1.5 points under a 2010 model and is ahead by just 0.4 under a model blending the 2010 and 2006 turnout rates.

The race is probably close.

But stick around. Another poll is coming that will help undercut all of that. 

**Update: WFLA in Tampa released its latest poll from SurveyUSA showing Crist with a 44-41 percent lead, the same spread as two weeks ago. Prior to that, though, it found Crist with a 46-41 percent lead.

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