Republican Marco Rubio, garnering surprising strength among independent voters, holds a double-digit lead over his two chief rivals in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, a new Sunshine State News Poll reports.
The survey of likely voters shows Rubio with 43 percent, independent Charlie Crist with 29 percent, Democrat Kendrick Meek with 23 percent and the remaining 5 percent undecided.
The Voter Survey Service poll surveyed 1,016 voters Sept. 1-5 and Sept. 7, and had a margin of error of 3 percent.
The three-way Senate contest is being closely watched nationally as it pits Crist, a well-known governor who bolted the Republican Party, against Rubio, a former Florida House speaker and tea party favorite whose early surge toward the GOP nomination forced Crist to run with No Party Affiliation.
Meek, a four-term congressman from Miami, trails in this and previous polls — though his 23 percent share represents a slight improvement. The fact that Meek has almost caught Crist adds grist to some campaign watchers’ theories that the governor ultimately could come in third.
“Rubio’s lead at this stage in the race is due to his fairly broad appeal across the political spectrum, primarily among GOP voters and independents, the latter of which is what’s really hurting Crist,” said Jim Lee, president of VSS.
“Among independents, Rubio even leads Crist narrowly, 38 percent to 36 percent,” Lee said. Meek garners just 16 percent of independents.
Rubio captures a solid 70 percent of GOP voters vs. just 21 percent for Crist and 6 percent for Meek, the poll reveals. Among Democrats, Meek won a modest 45 percent of the vote, with Crist at 35 percent and Rubio 14 percent.
“Crist can’t win this race if he doesn’t peel back some of Rubio’s support among independents,” Lee said. “With only 5 percent of voters remaining undecided, there is not a lot of room to grow for any of the candidates.”