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Q poll: Charlie Crist leads Senate pack; Alex Sink trails slightly; LeMieux disliked

Newly independent Gov. Charlie Crist is besting former Republican House Speaker Marco Rubio in Florida's U.S. Senate race by a 37-32 margin, according to Quinnipiac University's latest poll. Democrat Jeff Greene, the new frontrunner in his party's race, gets 17 percent of the vote. If Democrat Kendrick Meek bests Greene in the Aug. 24 primary, he would get just 13 percent of the general election vote. In that case, Crist's lead reaches 39 percent.

Those numbers reveal that Crist's success hinges in good measure on Democratic voters. But we didn't need a poll to show us that. The turncoat Republican has scrubbed his website and campaign-trail talk of red meat conservatism.

In the race for governor, state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink slightly trails the Republican nominee, whether it's frontrunner Rick Scott or Attorney General Bill McCollum, who are busy stripping in the bark off each other in a vicious multi-million dollar attack ad war. Thanks to the mud-slinging that has damaged both her potential GOP rivals, Sink's position has improved. But she still trails Scott 27-29 and is behind McCollum by a 26-27 percent margin. That's all well within the poll's 3.2 percentage point margin of error. So it's effectively a tie.

The gov race wildcard: former Democrat and son of the last Democratic Gov., Lawton Chiles. Bud Chiles garners 14 percent of the vote in the poll.

An intriguing side note to the poll: the approval ratings for Crist's Senate appointee George LeMieux, whose approval ratings are upside down. Voters disapprove of the job he's doing by a 25-21 percent margin. Just why is unclear. LeMieux is little known, and he's done little to distinguish himself by going along to get along in Washington. But Democrat Bill Nelson, whom LeMieux might run against in two years, gets a 46-30 job approval rating, despite the fact that the electorate is shifting rightward.

President Obama is upside down, with 46 percent approving of his job and 50 percent disapproving.

Crist's approval ratings are positive: 53-37 -- a big factor in his lead, along with his high name identification numbers.

"Gov. Charlie Crist’s small lead comes as neither Democrat breaks 20 percent in the trial heats.  If that were to be the case in November, Gov. Crist would have a very good chance to win.  But if the Democratic nominee can move into the mid-to-high 20s, Crist’s chances decrease substantially,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.