TAMPA — President Obama’s Florida approval rating was well above water just after SEAL Team 6 canceled Osama’s ticket. Not now. A Quinnipiac poll released last week shows 44 percent of the 674 registered Florida voters surveyed approved of Obama’s performance in office, while 51 percent disapproved. In May the same poll showed 51 to 43 percent approval.
As for whom Floridians told Quinnipiac they would like to see as president after 1/20/13, Obama and Mitt Romney are tied at 44 percent. In May, 47 percent of respondents said Obama deserved to be re-elected. In the latest poll, only 42 percent say they want another four years of him. Florida’s 29 electoral votes — 10.7 percent of the votes necessary to take possession of the key to the Oval Office wash-room — are in play.
Looking at the fine print of the poll, we learn that Florida independent voters, the backbone of Obama’s two-point win in Florida in 2008, now disapprove of Obama by a margin of two to one. Not good news for Himself. This is change the conservative side in Florida can believe in.
Romney leads the Republican presidential field in Florida, according to this poll. But he’s the choice of only 23 percent. Texas Governor Rick Perry, yet to announce, is second at 13 percent. Michele Bachmann, the belle of the ball in Iowa, so far gets only six percent support in Florida. But whenever Republicans select their flag-bearer, that candidate will have the advantage of not being Obama, a man more and more Floridians are finally seeing as a failed president.
If there’s no overwhelming choice in the Republican presidential sweepstakes in Florida so far, there even less agreement in the race for the Republican senatorial nomination. The hands-down leader in this race to choose a candidate to face a weak incumbent liberal is “Undecided” with 53 percent. A distant second in the senate race at 15 percent is retired Army Colonel Mike McCalister, who has only recently gotten into the race, has collected little money, and has appeared mostly before Tea Party groups.
Former U.S. Senator George LeMieux, who served the last 16 months of Mel Martinez’s Senate term, came in third at 12 percent. Restaurateur Craig Miller was the choice of eight percent. Former majority leader of the Florida House, Adam Hasner, has attracted the support of national conservative figures looking for the second coming of Marco Rubio. But he only attracted six percent of voters in this poll.
Twelve-year incumbent Bill Nelson, a down-the-line supporter of the Obama agenda, also lost a little ground in the latest poll. Over the two polls, the percentage saying Nelson deserves to be re-elected has dropped from 48 to 45. The percentage saying he shouldn’t be re-elected rose from 30 to 38.
All the Republican candidates are running on unambiguously conservative platforms. Any of them would be the un-Nelson. Another candidate or two may hop in on the Republican side before lineup cards are final next year. But don’t expect any mushy, moderate, Charlie Crist Republicans. Conservatism is clearly the philosophy of choice this cycle among Florida Republicans.
So there will be a clear ideological choice next year for the Senate seat. Nelson has the advantage of being defined as a moderate by a left-stream state media that will be solidly in his corner. The challenge facing conservatives will be to tie Nelson publicly to his record — which includes whooping up and voting for: ObamaCare, cap and trade, the “stimulus” slush fund, and a host of other liberal measures Floridians say they don’t like. It’s the conservative’s race to lose, in a state where people tell pollsters by a margin of more than two to one that they are conservatives.
With more than a year to go before the real ballots are cast, these poll numbers are useless in predicting either the presidential or senate horse races. But they do show the largest swing state in the nation slowly swinging back, at least for now, to red.