The Stump

Voter Cast-Off Charlie Crist Tops Florida Governor's Race Poll

Democrats who haven't controlled the governor's mansion in Tallahassee in 14 years could have a good opportunity to win it back next November.

Thanks to Republican Gov. Rick Scott's continuing unpopularity, both of the leading Democratic candidates hold double-digit leads in hypothetical matchups in a new Quinnipiac University poll. Alex Sink, the former state treasurer who narrowly lost to Scott in 2010, leads him by 11 points, 45-34. And Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor who has now returned as a Democrat, leads Scott by 16 points, 50-34.

Scott remains upside down in his job approval ratings. And perhaps even more ominously for Florida Republicans, their months-old campaign to paint Crist as a political opportunist does not appear to be working. Florida voters by a 50-40 margin believe Crist's switches from Republican to independent and independent to Democrat are positive signs that he is a pragmatist.

Both Sink and Crist have said they are thinking of running for governor, but neither has declared a candidacy.

Crist as a Republican in 2008 helped Arizona Sen. John McCain win the Florida presidential primary, and was later a contender for McCain's running mate choice. In 2010, Crist abandoned the Republican party after polls showed him trailing Marco Rubio in the Senate primary, and then lost to Rubio that November anyway as an independent. Crist last year endorsed and campaigned for President Obama's re-election, and in December announced his move to the Democratic Party.

The poll was released Wednesday and sampled 1,000 Florida registered voters from March 13 through 18. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

S.V. Dáte is the congressional editor on NPR's Washington Desk.

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