While still a hypothetical race — for now — a new poll from the University of North Florida says a contest between Bill Nelson and Rick Scott is a dead heat.
In a statewide, live-dial poll of 838 registered voters, Nelson was the choice of 37 percent of respondents, Scott of 36 percent, while 20 percent were unsure.
The party split: likewise similar, with 66 percent of Democrats saying they’d vote for Nelson, and 68 percent for Scott. Nelson also had a 4 point edge (32 to 28) with NPA voters.
However, one potentially critical weakness for Nelson — and one that can be exploited by Scott — is that many poll respondents don’t know much about the veteran Democratic Senator.
“The one major concern for Democrats has to be the public’s lack of awareness of Nelson. When a three-term sitting U.S. senator has almost half of the sample unable to assess his job approval, you have a problem,” observed UNF polling director Michael Binder.
Nelson seems to be the invisible man in this poll, with 35 percent approval, 15 percent disapproval, and a full 49 percent with no opinion — making him potentially easy prey to be defined by a Republican opponent and associated political committees.
Scott’s approval numbers, in what is a sharp contrast to much of the Republican Governor’s tenure, look impressive at 59 percent approval — including 40 percent of Democrats.
One potential strategy for Democrats: yoking Scott to President Donald Trump, whose 37 percent approval is largely bulwarked by 72 percent favorability among Republicans.
Scott likes to call Trump his “partner in the White House.” And as next year’s general election approaches, expect that partnership to be spotlighted by Democrats.
The poll was conducted between Oct. 11 and Oct. 17. There is a 3.39 point margin of error.