Florida Sen. Bill Nelson holds a solid 8 percentage-point lead over one of his potential rivals, Congressman Connie Mack, in a new poll that shows Democrats are gaining political ground in Florida.
Nelson beats Mack by a 44-36 percent margin – a shift of 7 percentage points in Nelson’s favor since January, when the two were essentially tied, according to Quinnipiac University’s Polling Institute. Nelson’s 8-point lead is outside the poll’s 2.8 percent error margin.
Quinnipiac, however, didn’t poll former Republican Sen. George LeMieux, who’s running against Mack for their party’s nomination. Previous polls showed Mack comfortably in the lead in the GOP primary.
But, as the economy has improved and the fortunes of the Republican Party diminished, Democrats are picking up momentum in Florida. President Obama now leads Republican Mitt Romney, whom Mack supports.
“President Barack Obama’s surge in Florida is helping Sen. Bill Nelson’s re-election chances,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac’s polling institute. “Just as President Obama’s lead in the presidential race in the Sunshine State is fueled by female voters, so too is Nelson’s.”
Among female voters, Nelson leads Mack by 46-32 percent margin. That’s an 8 percentage-point shift in the incumbent’s favor. Similarly, Obama has surged with women, who appear to have begun cooling to the Republican Party amid the fight over federally mandated insurance contraceptive coverage.
While Nelson has picked up modest support overall, Mack has dropped a little as well.
Mack is being targeted both by LeMieux’s campaign and a shadowy political committee, Saving Florida’s Future.
Both have savaged Mack in cartoonish web ads that mock him for fistfights he got in years ago as a young man and for some of his financial troubles that were exposed in his divorce starting in 2005.
About the same time, in February, LeMieux won a major straw poll held by the Florida Federation of Republican Women. Mack came in third behind Plant City businessman Mike McCalister.
Brown also cautions that these are early results. The general election is Nov. 6. And Mack still has to survive the Aug. 14 GOP primary.