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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Bill Nelson, Having a Tough Time Hitting 50



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If you suspected that two-term incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida is vulnerable, you’re right.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson falls short of the 50 percent mark against five potential Republican opponents, according to a poll commissioned by Ron Sachs Communications and conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research.

The survey, which was shared exclusively with POLITICO, shows former Gov. Jeb Bush as the most powerful Republican challenger for Nelson. Bush leads the senator by 8 points, 49 percent to 41 percent.

But Bush is not considered likely to run, and the polling memo notes that a challenge from the former governor is a “bullet [Nelson] will likely get to dodge.”

That means the Democrat will face off against a Republican who lacks Bush’s high profile and statewide popularity, such as Rep. Connie Mack, former Sen. George LeMieux, state Senate President Mike Haridopolos or former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.

Nelson fared better against all four of those candidates in the Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll, though he failed to win a majority of the vote in any match-up.

The closest race would be between Nelson and Mack, whose father – Connie Mack III – Nelson replaced in the Senate. Nelson would have just a 5-point advantage over Mack, leading 45 percent to 40 percent.

Against LeMieux, Nelson’s lead widens to 14 points — he’s ahead 49 percent to 35 percent. Nelson has a 23-point lead over Haridopolo (48 percent to 25 percent), and a 22-point lead over Hasner (46 percent to 22 percent).

The poll was taken from Feb. 9-10 and tested 625 registered voters.

This is, of course, quite early. The Republican nominee will have to go through a (probably) deeply divided primary, and Florida will probably see a lot of attention from Obama and the GOP presidential nominee, driving up turnout on both sides. But it’s worth noting that Nelson cruised to reelection against Katherine Harris in 2006, and squeaked by in 2000 against Bill McCollum with 51 percent of the vote.


Tags: Bill Nelson , Connie Mack III , Jeb Bush


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