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Crist's lead solid with few on fence, poll says

Published October 11, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis will have a difficult time overtaking Republican Charlie Crist, a poll released Tuesday indicates.

The Quinnipiac University poll shows Crist with a solid lead and just a few likely voters who remain completely undecided.

Crist, the state's attorney general from St. Petersburg, was backed by 53 percent of likely voters, including leaners, compared with 43 percent who said they favored the Democratic congressman from Tampa. Just 3 percent were undecided.

The random telephone survey of 783 likely voters was conducted Oct. 3-8.

In a larger sampling of 968 registered voters, Crist was favored by 50 percent to Davis' 39 percent.

And while there are more registered Democrats in Florida than Republicans, Crist was favored by independent voters and also by 20 percent of the Democratic voters questioned, including one in five black voters.

"Republicans are gaining the middle," assistant poll director Peter Brown said Wednesday. "Crist is getting them in numbers that is very encouraging for them."

Quinnipiac said the margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points in the sampling of likely voters and 3.2 percentage points among registered voters.

It was Quinnipiac's first sampling of Florida voters since Crist defeated Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and Davis defeated state Sen. Rod Smith in the Sept. 5 primary.

Fifty-six percent of Crist supporters liked him for his stand on issues, and another 19 percent noted his experience in state government. He served as a state senator and education commissioner before becoming attorney general in 2003.

Davis' biggest obstacle, according to the poll, seems to be that the congressman remains largely unknown, four weeks from Election Day. Nearly three in five respondents, 57 percent, said they still didn't know enough about him. Just over half who said they preferred Davis said it was because he was a Democrat compared to 31 percent who preferred his stance on issues.

Davis began his television advertising in several Florida markets last week with a pair of 15-second spots that are being paid for by the state Democratic Party. Crist has been on TV almost nonstop since late May.

Voters were split on whether they wanted a new governor to continue with the policies outgoing Republican Gov. Jeb Bush has championed, including the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test being used as a requirement for student promotion.

Fifty-eight percent ranked property insurance costs as their main concern. Twenty percent said tax cuts and 19 percent said the FCAT.

[Last modified October 11, 2006, 00:45:15]

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