If there is one message we can take away from the latest Public Policy Poll, it is that the phenomenon known as Charlie-mania is now over. Even though Charlie Crist had a 12-point lead in May 2013, the race between the former governor and the current governor, Rick Scott, is now neck and neck. This wasn’t necessarily a question of If this would happen, but when. Now the campaign really begins.
Looking at the numbers, what exactly is going on in the governor’s race? In Rick Scott’s case, he has solidified his Republican support. On the other hand, some Democrats have cooled on Crist. The following article is going to conduct a comparative analysis of yesterday’s poll and the May 2013 poll by PPP.
First, let’s look at Rick Scott. It seems as if much of his support comes from recapturing the Republican and conservative vote that he didn’t secure earlier. All of the numbers in these categories are higher. Of those who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, 79% now say they will vote for Scott compared to 73% in May 2013. Among those who consider themselves somewhat conservative, his numbers jumped from 63% support in May to 71% today. His approval rating among Republicans has also increased from 46% to 58%. But the most important number is Republican support in a Scott/Crist matchup. In May, only 65% of Republicans said they would vote for Scott. That number has now jumped to 80%. Basically, Rick Scott has solidified the partisan vote.
Even with this solidification, there are some areas that Scott should be worried about. Among those on the conservative side of the political spectrum, his approval ratings linger in the 50% range, snowing no real change over the last nine months. Still, when asked to pick between Scott and any Democrat, conservatives come back home with support for Scott around 70%. Therefore, he might not be popular but he is the choice of the conservative ideologues.
When looking at Charlie Crist there are a number of problems that are pointed out in this poll. Over the last few months I have hypothesized that Crist can only win if he unifies Democratic voters and brings moderate Republicans to his side. In the latest poll Crist has seen a decline in both of these categories.
First let’s look at Crist’s Democratic support. Of those who voted for President Obama in 2012, Crist had a 67% favorable rating in May. Now that number is at 58%. In May 84% of Obama supporters also said they would vote for Crist over Scott. Now that number is 74%. Of those who identify as Democrats, Crist’s favorability rating fell from 60% to 52%. And of those same Democrats, support dropped from 74% to 66% in a Crist/Scott match up.
As far as Crist bringing over moderate Republicans, it seems that ship may have already sailed. Crist’s favorability amongst Republicans fell from 28% to 17%. In fact, Democrats now have a higher approval rating of Rick Scott (19%) than Republicans do of Crist (17%). In a Crist/Scott match up, only 14% of Republicans would now vote for Crist, whereas that number was 29% back in May of 2013. It seems as if the idea of moderate Republicans voting for Crist is now dead as overall Republican numbers rival support of Democrats for Rick Scott.
There are other numbers that Crist needs to worry about as well. His favorability amongst Hispanic voters sharply dropped from 52% in May to 36% now. White favorability has dropped from 41% to 33%. African-Americans’ favorability has dropped from 66% to 55%. Therefore, among all major racial demographics, Crist seems to have a huge decrease in favorability. When we put this into perspective in regards to the Crist/Scott match up, more shocking numbers emerge. 17% of African-Americans say they would vote for Scott. In comparison, when ask about a generic congressional poll, 98% of African-Americans picked a generic Democrat, with 0% going to Republicans. Hispanics have also flipped in the race as well. In May, Crist was winning the Hispanic vote 57%-31%. Now Scott is winning Hispanics 48%-28%. These racial divides and declines in Crist support might be the most shocking numbers of the entire PPP poll.
One thing that is also quite interesting in the poll is that Crist is actually increasing his support amongst very liberal voters. In May of 2013, Crist’s favorability rating amongst those who identify as “very liberal” was at 55%. Now it is 68%. In a Crist/Scott match up, support among the very liberals for Crist rose from 64% to 70%. But with this comes a sharp decrease in moderate support. Crist’s favorability amongst moderates dropped from 61% to 47%. In the Crist/Scott match up, Crist’s moderate support dropped from 71% to 56%. Therefore, while very liberal voters are supporting him more, it is hurting him among the moderate voters. Some of these have moved over to Scott, but many more moved into the undecided category.
How about Nan Rich. Unfortunately for the Rich campaign, very few voters know who she is. Without going into every demographic, let’s just look at those that Rich should be doing well with. 68% of Obama supporters have no opinion of Rich. 69% of very liberal voters and 79% of somewhat liberal voters have no idea who Rich is. 72% of women don’t know who Rich is. 67% of Democrats don’t know who Rich is. Basically nobody knows who Nan Rich is. This can easily be looked at as a failure of the campaign to make Senator Rich nothing more than the alternative to Charlie Crist. This tactic never works and does not seem to be working in this case. If none of the voters know who Nan Rich is, she will have a hard time winning the primary. Basically, she needs to define herself more than just being the other option to Crist.
The reason that Rick Scott won in 2010 was because he was able to solidify his Republican and conservative bases. Early on in this election, it seemed as if Crist might have been able to crack that base, bringing over just enough Republican voters that could help him get the edge. Now it seems as if Scott’s base numbers are back to the 2010 level. If these trends continue into the fall, it will be hard for Crist to win, as his Democratic numbers are also starting to decline. While Crist is still winning among those who are moderate, Alex Sink won the moderate vote by 23% in 2010. Crist still has a stronger advantage among moderates which could be the difference in the election, but will it last?
Charlie-mania is now over — this has turned into a real campaign. Strap on your seatbelts and enjoy the ride! The race is highly competitive and could see many twists and turns over the next nine months.