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Smith catches up with Davis in a new poll

By ALEX LEARY
Published June 9, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - A new poll in the Democratic gubernatorial primary challenges Tampa U.S. Rep. Jim Davis' claim to being the front-runner.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce poll shows state Sen. Rod Smith of Alachua in a dead heat with Davis, seemingly confirming the buzz surrounding his campaign in recent weeks.

Smith, with 21.5 percent, was one point behind his rival. A chamber poll in February showed Davis ahead, 25 percent to 9 percent.

"I'm encouraged," Smith said Thursday. "That tells us to keep working on our message." That message was at least temporarily derailed with news that one of his top contributors had his Gainesville office searched by authorities in connection with an investigation into the state prison system.

However close, each candidate has work to do: Fifty-six percent of respondents in the latest survey remain undecided.

"The race remains wide open," said Rob Schroth of the Alexandria, Va., polling firm Schroth, Eldon & Associates.

The telephone survey involved 600 likely Democratic primary voters and was conducted June 4-6, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Davis, whose campaign statements tout him as the front-runner, has been focusing more attention on Smith lately, including a series of pointed statements last week questioning his record on labor issues.

With nearly two decades in the state and U.S. House of Representatives, Davis was indeed seen as the early favorite and other polls have borne that out. In late May, a Quinnipiac University poll showed him up 21 percentage points and even with the GOP contenders, Charlie Crist and Tom Gallagher.

Davis spokesman Josh Earnest pointed to the more favorable numbers Thursday, but said either way, the strategy to win "by communicating Jim's vision for keeping Florida's promise" had not changed.

Other results from the chamber poll of Democrats: Fifty-six percent disapproved of the job done by the Florida Legislature. President Bush has a favorable rating of 17 percent and an unfavorable rating of 81 percent. Gov. Jeb Bush has a favorable rating of 39 percent and unfavorable rating of 58 percent.

Alex Leary can be reached at aleary@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

[Last modified June 9, 2006, 05:37:42]


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