NextGen Climate's five TV ads bashing Florida Gov. Rick Scott's environmental record have hurt the Republican and, as a result, given an otherwise-outgunned Charlie Crist more of a fighting chance this election season, according to a polling memo from the environmental group.
In a head-to-head matchup, Crist leads Scott 46-43 percent. With Libertarian Adrian Wyllie in the race, Scott is up 42-41 percent. Both leads are inside the error margins of the poll of 600 likely Florida voters conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang, a firm that typically surveys for Democrats and liberals.
Pollster Geoff Garin says, compared to a survey taken in July, "Scott’s standing has eroded significantly" in the three media markets where voters have seen at least $1.8 million worth of ads that focus on Scott’s ties to Duke Energy, the sugar lobby and an Everglades oil-drilling outfit.
"Scott’s personal negatives increased 11 points in Ft. Myers (from 30% to 41%), and four points in Tampa (from 42% to 46%) and West Palm Beach (from 49% to 53%). His net job approval rating dropped 11 points in West Palm Beach (-6 to -17), six points in Tampa (from +1 to -5), and five points in Ft. Myers (from +27 to +22)," the polling memo says.
"As a result, the gubernatorial trial heat has also shifted toward Crist in all three markets. Since early July, Crist has taken over the lead in Tampa, going from a three-point deficit to a two-point lead; he has expanded his lead form three points to 12 points in West Palm Beach; and he has reduced Scott’s lead in the Republican stronghold of Ft. Myers from 28 points to just 19 points."
NextGen, run by billionaire Tom Steyer, isn't just running commercials. It's organizing on the ground as well and says it has opened 17 offices across Florida, knocked on 158,000 doors and made about 35,000 calls to donors.
It's not as if Crist's campaign is doing nothing, either. It began advertising heavily in July, when Garin's baseline survey was taken, and has since placed or run about $14 million in ads. Scott has run $35 million since March.
Democrats were abuzz about Steyer pumping as much as $10 million in the race, with $5 million on ads. But the rate of ad spending appears to have slowed and its unclear if that's a sign of things to come, a pause or a blip in the data.
A note about the poll, which oversampled in the three media markets: the toplines look similar to other surveys when it comes to Democratic and Republican support for the candidates, but Crist's 59-26 percent lead among independents is an outlier. Crist loses 10 points with Wyllie in the race, who makes the contest essentially dead even. It's another sign that Wyllie might ultimately help Scott and hurt Crist, who ran as an independent in 2010.
Here's the whole memo: Download NGC FL Poll Findings - Sept 2014 (1)