Independent voters favor Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Connie Mack over his Democratic opponent Sen. Bill Nelson though Nelson leads the race overall, according to a newly released Scripps poll via Nora McAlvanah of the FLDemocracy2012.com.
Mack narrowed the overall margin to 45 percent to 41 percent, and had strong support among independent voters across the state. About 41 percent of those who supported Mack said they were independent voters, while 37 percent of independent voters said they would support Nelson.
“If you’re a sitting incumbent, you want higher numbers,” said Casey Klofstad, a political science professor at the University of Miami. “It’s a statistical dead heat, obviously.”
The poll of 800 likely voters by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling was conducted Wednesday and Thursday, following Wednesday evening’s first and only Senate debate. The poll was commissioned by E.W. Scripps television stations in West Palm Beach and Tampa, the Treasure Coast Newspapers and the Naples Daily News. It has a plus-minus margin of error of 4 percent.
“The only poll that counts, of course, is on Election Day,” said Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for the Nelson campaign. “Meanwhile, we’ve always known this was going to be a close race. That’s the nature of Florida politics today.”
A spokesman for the Mack campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling just days earlier showed Nelson with an eight-point lead over Mack, with 45 percent of 791 likely voters saying they would vote for Nelson and 37 percent saying they would vote for Mack. Eighteen percent of voters polled in the Oct. 12-14 Public Policy Polling survey said they were undecided.
Days later, the number of undecided voters dropped to 14 percent, but Klofstad said he still thought it was quite high for this late in the contest.
Peter Bergerson, a political science professor at Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero, said many Floridians may not be paying attention to the Senate race this year.
“One of the things that has happened is the presidential race in Florida has sucked all of the political oxygen out,” Bergerson said. “That leaves the Nelson-Mack race as the undercard, and not a lot of people have been focused on it.”
To win, Bergerson said, both candidates are going to make sure their base gets out and votes on election day. They also are going to have to reach out to persuadable voters, something both campaigns are hoping statewide campaign swings will accomplish.
Mack is on the second leg of his Freedom Tour, while Nelson is continuing his Florida First tour. Both men are hitting locations across the state where they aren’t as well known, and are campaigning heavily with their party’s presidential candidates.