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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Politics

Serafin Gomez

Miami, FL

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Poll:Crist as Independent Edges out Rubio, Meek

April 15, 2010 - 11:10 AM | by: Serafin Gomez

MIAMI-  In the most accurate snapshot yet of one of America’s most watched  2010 races, a new Quinnipiac poll out this morning solidifies Marco Rubio’s large lead in the Florida GOP primary, but shows that Gov.Charlie Crist’s best chance at winning the Senate seat may be as an independent.

Rubio has opened up a wide, 23-point lead over his opponent Crist with 5 months to go to the Republican primary, according to the survey. However, in a 3-way race with Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek, Crist — running as an independent –would edge out both  Rubio, and Meek. Crist would get 32 percent of the vote, compared to Rubio’s 30 percent and Meek’s 24 percent, according to Quinnipiac. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points.

” I’m really not thinking about the other,” Crist said yesterday in Tallahassee when questioned by reporters about an independent run, according to the Associated Press. “You all may find this hard to believe but I’m fairly consumed with this (legislative issues).”

FULL QUINNIPIAC RELEASE:

RUBIO TOPS CRIST BY 23 POINTS IN FLORIDA GOP SENATE RACE, QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY POLL FINDS; CRIST AS INDEPENDENT HAS SLIGHT EDGE IN 3-WAY RACE

Marco Rubio has opened up an elephant-sized 56 – 33 percent lead over Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s U.S. Senate Republican primary, but in a three-way general election with Rubio on the GOP line, Crist as an independent and Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, Crist has a razor-thin edge, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Gov. Crist leads Meek 48 – 34 percent in a general election matchup, while Rubio’s margin over the Democrat is just 42 – 38 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds. If Crist were to file as an independent for the general election, he would get 32 percent of the vote, compared to Rubio’s 30 percent and Meek’s 24 percent. Rubio, the former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, has virtually reversed the numbers from last June when he trailed Gov. Crist 54 – 23 percent. He has increased his lead 20 points from a January 26 poll when he edged Crist 47 – 44 percent.

“Anything is possible in politics and we have a long way to go until the August primary, but Rubio’s surge against a sitting governor from his own party is similar to Ned Lamont’s Democratic primary win over Sen. Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut in 2006,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“A year ago, many observers questioned Rubio’s sanity for potentially risking his bright future by what most at the time considered a quixotic quest. “Gov. Crist appears a great deal more viable in a November three-way than he is against Rubio in a Republican primary. But having already ruled out an independent candidacy, he would have to reverse himself by the end of the month due to the filing deadline,” said Brown.

“Such a public reversal might be politically harmful to the governor, but perhaps not compared to his chances against Rubio at this point,” Brown added. In a three-way general election:

• Crist would get 30 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of independent voters;

• Rubio would receive 64 percent of GOP votes, 5 percent from Democrats and 29 percent of independents:

• Meek, a congressman from South Florida, would get 55 percent of Democratic votes, 15 percent of independents and no Republicans. Meek is much less known than either of the Republicans with 73 percent of voters not knowing enough about him to rate him either favorably or unfavorably.

•Rubio is rated favorably by 36 percent; unfavorably by 22 percent and 41 percent don’t have an opinion. Crist is viewed favorably by 48 percent, unfavorably by 35 percent and just 13 percent don’t know enough about him to have an opinion. The size of Rubio’s lead over Gov. Crist in a GOP primary is buttressed by a number of other questions. By 54 – 30 percent, registered Republicans, who are the only ones allowed to vote in a GOP primary, say they trust Rubio more than Crist to do in office what he promises in the campaign. By 56 – 32 percent, they say Rubio more than Crist shares their values and by a 59 – 27 percent margin, they cite Rubio as more consistently conservative than Crist.

“If Crist remains in the GOP primary, and absent the type of game-changing scandal of which there is no sign, the Governor faces the political equivalent of climbing a 90-degree mountain,” said Brown. “But in a three-way, he has a possible path to the U.S. Senate.” Florida’s two sitting U.S. Senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican George LeMieux, get job approval ratings of 43 – 30 percent and a split 20 – 21 percent respectively.

From April 8 – 13, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,250 Florida voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points. The survey includes 497 Republicans with a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.