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FL poll: Romney-Perry tied. But Romney has best chance to beat Obama

The Republican race for president is a two-man tie in Florida, but voters think that Mitt Romney has a slightly better chance of becoming president, according to a new poll shared with The Miami Herald.

Romney and Rick Perry are virtually dead even, garnering 25 percent each of the Republican vote, with Newt Gingrich a distant third at 9 percent, according to the survey by War Room Logistics, a Gainesville firm that polls and consults for Republicans

But in a general election match-up, only Romney matches Obama, pulling in 45 percent of the vote to the presidents 44 percent – a lead that’s well within the overall error margin of the poll that sampled 1,400 self-described likely Florida voters.

“It appears that Romney has cross over-appeal in this early stage, especially with the fickle Independent vote,” pollster Alex Patton noted in an email. Only Romney bests Obama among independents, 45-39. Obama would beat Perry right now, 48-40 percent.

“If the President remains unpopular and the economy remains poor, a challenger has a very good chance of being able to win Florida vs Obama,” he said. 

The poll isn’t all good news for Republicans in Florida, though.

Independents are helping Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson edge any of his potential Republican opponents: Adam Hasner, George LeMieux, Mike McCalister, or Craig Miller. Nelson garners about 40 percent of the vote to about a quarter of the vote for each challenger.

Who’s the likely challenger? No one, right now.

The sample of 572 Republicans show that 83 percent are undecided (compared with about 12 percent of voters in the overall presidential match-up). LeMieux holds a slight edge, pulling in about 8 percent. McCalister is half that. Hasner and Miller are tied at about 3 percent.

The poll also shows the Republican Party brand is the least-liked, with 57 percent holding an unfavorable view of the GOP compared to 36 percent who hold a favorable view. The Democratic Party’s fav/unfav split: 47-46. The tea party’s fav/unfav: 36-51.

That doesn’t mean, however, that a tea party endorsement or support is a kiss of death. The poll also shows that about 53 percent of voters would be more likely to favor a candidate who’s supported by the tea party, while only 26 percent say it would make them less likely.

The War Room poll is the first survey of Florida voters heading into Thursday’s Presidency 5 debate and the Saturday straw poll. Tomorrow, Quinnipiac University will release its survey of the race. The two polls will likely differ in one major respect: the War Room survey samples likely voters while Quinnipiac’s survey and most polls around this time simply sample registered voters. Also, War Room Logistic’s survey uses so-called “robo-polling” vote-by-phone technology and Quinnipiac’s uses live callers.

The calling technology probably won’t make much of a difference in the results between the two surveys, but the difference between sampling likely voters vs. registered voters will. And there's a good chance that the poll screening for likely voters will more closely track the results of the straw poll' beecause it will be decided by about 3,500 Republican Party activists, insiders and elected officials -- that is, likely voters.

Still, since Florida surveys often resemble the nation’s, it’s a good chance that Perry and Romney will be at the head of the pack in any new Florida polling.

“At this moment, the Republican race is a two person race in Florida,” said Patton.  “It will be interesting to see who is still on the ballot come the Florida Primary.”