While polling in Florida of the presidential race has fluctuated, the polling in our Senate race had been pretty consistent: Incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson was kicking ass.
Well, no more, at least according to one poll. Rasmussen Reports shows that, in a major shift, Republican challenger Rep. Connie Mack IV is now leading Nelson by a staggering nine points. Nelson's biggest problem is that voters in his own party just aren't that into him.
The new poll of likely voters shows 46 percent favor Mack while only 37 percent favor Nelson. That's a sea change since the last time Rasmussen polled Floridians. In April, the polling company found that 47 percent favored Nelson to 36 who favored Mack.
A Public Policy Polling result in early June showed Nelson leading by 13 points, but a Quinnipiac poll in late June foreshadowed the changing tide by showing Nelson with just a one-point lead.
Mack, of course, is now considered the likely Republican nominee and no longer has to deal with major primary opponents attacking him. So improved polling is to be expected, but the story here is not how popular Mack has become, but rather how unpopular Nelson now finds himself.
There are two major traditionally Democratic demographics that Mack finds himself in polling trouble with: women and, well, Democrats.
Eighty-six percent of Republicans say they'll vote for Mack. Only 66 percent of Democrats say they'll vote for Nelson. (We should note that does not mean the other 33 percent will necessarily vote for Mack.)
That shouldn't be a surprise. Nelson is well known for bowing toward the middle. His views on liberal, hot-button issues such as gay marriage and health-care reform have been vague at best. He seems to be most passionate about things like getting rid of invasive pythons and snakes (hence our pet nickname Senator Spacesnakes). If Democrats were as enthusiastic as Republicans about ideologically purifying their own party, he most certainly would have been labeled a "D.I.N.O." and faced a primary challenge. He's lucky he hasn't.
So it's not much of a surprise, either, that Nelson has a nine-point lead among independent voters. He's their kind of guy.
Basically, he's playing a game of political chess -- hoping his popularity among independents will carry through and that Democrats who aren't exactly pleased with him will show up and vote for him anyway. So expect a lot of negative campaigning against Mack in the more bluish areas of the state in the hopes it will scare Dems into voting for Nelson.
However, Nelson has another interesting problem. Traditionally, Democrats tend to fare better among women than men. Mack has leads in both genders. He has a six-point lead among men but also a pretty stunning ten-point lead among women.
If we were advising Nelson, we'd tell him to make good with both women and liberals in one fell swoop by making a big issue out of women's rights in this campaign.
Well, at least if this poll isn't a crazy outlier.
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