Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a man with more political lives than an adventurous cat, leads Republican incumbent Rick Scott by a dozen percentage points in the latest Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released yesterday.
The white-haired Crist leads the embattled and steadfastly unpopular Scott by a margin of 50 percent to 38 percent.
According to PPP, the former governor holds a commanding 57 to 33 percent lead among the state’s 2.6 million registered independents and is favored by more than a fifth of the state’s GOP voters.
The PPP survey also showed that Gov. Scott has one of the worst approval ratings in the country. Floridians disapprove of the governor’s performance by a lopsided 55-33 margin. That’s not too far behind Pennsylvania’s beleaguered Tom Corbett, believed to be the most endangered Republican chief executive in the country.
The 57-year-old Crist, who abandoned the GOP in the wake of a reactionary Tea Party onslaught in the spring of 2010, waged a spirited independent campaign for the U.S. Senate later that fall.
Pitted against Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio in the general election, Crist garnered a jaw-dropping 1,607,549 votes, or nearly 30 percent of all votes cast, while finishing some 515,000 votes ahead of the lackluster Democratic nominee in that race. Incredibly, without any established party backing, Crist once led his major-party rivals in the polls and eventually carried populous Broward, Palm Beach and Pinellas counties in that losing effort.
Steadily moving toward the left, the former governor spoke at the 2012 Democratic national convention in Charlotte and actively stumped for President Obama during the autumn campaign. He officially joined the Democratic Party last December.
Crist, who is expected to formally announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination sometime within the next six weeks, has been carefully redefining his image as a fighting populist deeply concerned with the economic woes of ordinary Floridians.
In a state with a shrinking labor force — largely the result of discouraged workers who have simply stopped looking for work — and a sluggish economy that lost nearly 5,000 jobs in August alone, it’s a message that’s beginning to resonate.
While the state continues to be among the nation’s leaders in new foreclosure filings, trailing only recession-ravaged Nevada in that dismal category, Floridians appear anxious to embrace Charlie’s political comeback.
Though expecting to face a challenge for his adopted party’s nomination from former Florida Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich of Weston — a little-known but potentially feisty foe who could present problems on the former governor’s left in the August 26 primary — Crist, obviously looking beyond the Democratic primary, said that he wasn’t the least bit worried about Gov. Scott’s immense personal wealth.
Scott, who recently listed his net worth at $83.8 million, reportedly spent a staggering $73 million of his own money in capturing the governor’s office in 2010 and plans to spend $100 million on his reelection bid.
“I don’t care about his bank accounts,” Crist told Bloomberg. “I care about the bank accounts of regular working Floridians.”
Former Libertarian Party state chairman Adrian Wyllie, who has been actively campaigning for the state’s highest office for the past eleven months, and Brian P. Moore of Spring Hill, a longtime political activist who polled more than 200,000 votes in the state’s 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary and is seriously weighing a possible candidacy on the left-wing Peace & Freedom Party ticket, weren’t included in the poll.
Conducted between September 27th and the 29th, the automated PPP survey of 579 Florida voters has a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.