Tampa Bay Times Poll Finds Scott Leading Crist by Five, but Results Are Weird

It's amazing what $25.6 million can buy you these days. A condo in South Beach. A season of CC Sabathia's pitching services. Or if you're Rick Scott, a five-point lead in a hotly contested governor's race. That's what a new poll out this morning from the Tampa Bay Times finds after Scott's record early TV ad binge against Charlie Crist.

But there's one seriously weird result in Tampa's poll, which is one of the first non-GOP sponsored surveys to find Scott with such a wide lead. Namely, the same poll finds Crist with a sizable lead among independents -- usually a sound sign in deeply purple Florida that a candidate is headed to victory.

See also: 26 Percent of Floridians Still Can't Decide Who's Slightly Less Horrible, Scott or Crist

The Times story is also missing one key piece of information: The party-line split between the two candidates. How many registered Democrats say they'll vote for Crist and how many Republicans are voting Scott? (The poll did find 12 percent of GOP voters willing to back Crist and 15 percent of Dems going for Scott).

Considering that the survey found Crist with an outside-the-margin seven-point lead among independents, it's fair to ask how exactly he could be trailing by five points overall -- and raises the larger issue if the poll oversampled conservative Democrats in north Florida.

The poll, conducted by University of Florida's Bob Graham Center for Public Service and Bureau of Economic and Business Research between August 27 - 31, sampled 814 likely voters and weighted the calls by age, party ID and media market.

The center concluded that Scott's ad blitz is working; 53 percent of voters said they believed Crist was unethical and Scott also lead Crist by seven points in the question of whether the candidate would provide sound leadership.

Overall, that ad campaign has translated into a growing margin for Scott, they found. When Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is taken out of the mix (he garnered 6.3 percent support), Scott's lead grows to 6 points.

But that mysterious result among independent voters leaves some big question marks hanging over the race. Could Crist really poll so well among that key demographic and still lose the race to Scott?

Even the pollsters say it's far too early to tell -- especially since voters, as other polls have consistently found, don't particularly like either guy running for the office.

"This is not a case in which we've got two gubernatorial candidates who are captivating voters by their integrity and their leadership," David Colburn, interim director of the polling center, tells the Times. "The voters are troubled by these candidates, and it seems to me anything can happen over the last two months."

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink

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