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Survey summary: Who's in, who's out, who hasn't got a prayer

HOWARD TROXLER
Published December 8, 2003

A half-dozen dunderheaded, biased comments on this latest St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald poll published over the weekend:

(1) Women like George W. more than Jeb.

Overall, the president and the governor have similar approval/disapproval ratings among Florida voters, 53 percent to 42 percent and 52 percent to 41 percent, respectively. For both Bushes, there's a gender gap.

The president polls 57-to-40 among men and a much narrower 50-to-44 among women. But shucks, that's nothing.

Jeb doesn't have a gender gap, he has a gender canyon. Men approve of the governor's job performance 61-to-33, while most women disapprove of him 44-to-48.

Why is it that men love Jeb and women don't? Beats me. Make up your own theory.

Maybe it's because he knows what everybody else should be doing all the time and is so hard-headedly certain about every single word that comes out of his mouth - just like, you know, a guy. He probably never asks for directions, either.

(2) The Dems have no champion.

The only way you could get a Democrat even close to beating the president in Florida in 2004 is by keeping a paper bag over the challenger's head. The poll shows Bush leading "the eventual Democratic nominee" 43-to-37.

When you throw the contender lineup in there, name by name, Bush widens his lead against all comers, winning by anywhere from 8 to 13 percentage points. That certainly will narrow once the Democrats settle on a single guy.

(For some reason, the president absolutely kills John Edwards, more than any other Democrat, leading him by 18 points. Either that's just a quirk of the poll, or Edwards made some crack about orange juice while I was out of town.)

(3) Katherine Harris is red-hot.

The former secretary of state, now a U.S. representative from Sarasota, is NOT a candidate for U.S. Senate. But she has more support for the Republican nomination than the top three men in the race - Bill McCollum, Mel Martinez and Johnnie Byrd - combined.

Just for funsies, let's say she was the Republican nominee against Betty Castor on the Democratic side (Castor, too, has a strong lead in the poll). Wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't that be an interesting race? Come on, humor me.

(4) It's a slam-dunk on Schiavo.

Jeb had better have been acting on principle when he jumped into the Terri Schiavo case, because if he was trying to pander to anybody, it waaaaay backfired. The poll shows a strong 65-to-23 disagreement with his intervention, with a 75-to-13 majority that spouses (not parents) should have the principal say in removing feeding tubes.

Democrats and independents disagreed with Bush even more strongly, 73-to-16, but even most Republicans were against him, 54-to-34. (Interestingly, the poll showed slightly higher opposition among voters older than 65, perhaps more mindful of their own coming end-of-life decisions.)

(5) Are we finally fed up with subsidizing sports?

Even winning the World Series doesn't win the Florida Marlins any support for using tax dollars to build a new stadium. In fact, Floridians oppose the idea by a pants-kicking 80-to-14 spread.

Of course, maybe this state-level number proves nothing. It's the mayors and city councils who crave big stadia. As long as they can be conned, there's hope for moguls.

(6) Better avoid a referendum ...

... if you support gay marriage or want to keep restrictions on travel to Cuba. Floridians would vote down the first idea 66-to-28 and the second 64-to-26.

Interestingly, politicians trip over themselves to pander to the anti-Castro vote, no matter the majority's view. Yet they shun gay marriage like ... well, you know. A paradox.

(7) More cat references in columns!

Voters strongly agreed that they wished to read more about man-cats Abou and Clarence in future columns.

Strictly speaking, this was the result of supplemental polling conducted after the main sample, but it is accurate within plus or minus five percentage points.

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