So many recent polls have shown Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott in a dead heat that state election officials actually went on record this week worrying about what might happen if a recount was needed to break a statistical tie. This race is damned close.
But a new poll out this morning from Quinnipiac suggests Crist may be finally opening up some daylight. Crist's new lead is still within the margin of error, but it's bolstered by remarkably strong support among independent voters -- a hint that he may in fact be pulling ahead.
"Independent voters are often the difference in swing states like Florida," says Peter A. Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "But the size of former Gov. Charlie Crist's lead among them is truly remarkable."
Big picture, Quinnipiac's new poll finds Crist leading Scott 43-40 percent. The poll of 817 voters has a 3.4 percent margin of error, meaning the two candidates are still statistically tied.
But Crist's trending support about independents suggests his newfound lead in the survey may not be an illusion.
Independent voters, Quinnipiac found, back the former governor 47-29 percent -- a gap that's grown significantly bigger since last week, when they polled 41-38 for Crist.
Could the debates -- including the infamous Fangate in Broward -- have swayed independent voters away from Scott?
"It would be a reasonable hypothesis that the candidates' debates made a big difference in this race," Brown says in a release. "Scott was ahead going into them and behind after them. It could be a coincidence, but it would be a pretty large coincidence. Crist has long been thought of as an excellent campaigner and he used those skills to his advantage."
Brown also speculates that Crist's switch from Republican to Democrat may actually help him among the independently minded voter, who could see the move as a sign that he's not beholden to party politics.
Libertarian Adrian Wyllie could still play spoiler to one of the candidates in such a tight race. He's nabbing 8 percent in the latest poll; but when Wyllie is taken out of the mix, Crist still holds a three point lead, at 45-42 -- suggesting, as most polls have, that the third-party candidate is drawing voters equally from both sides of the aisle.
"If those voters decide to leave him for a major party candidate they could also make a difference," Brown says.
Here's the full poll:
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