6.21.2005

Mixed news for Florida Republicans

Saw this poll on RCP and it alarmed me. Sen. Ben Nelson has long been considered a prime target for the GOP in 2006, as Florida seems to be trending Republican and a first class candidate in Katherine Harris is running against him. She was in charge of the 2000 recount, which made her a polarizing figure. She now serves in Congress, and has declared she will run against Nelson. Unfortunately a poll by Mason-Dixon has Nelson up 53% to Harris' 36%, with 11% undecided. Considering Nelson's considerably liberal stances and Harris' name recognition and strong standing in her district, these numbers are dissapointing. It seems the internals show the problems:
Harris' favorablity rating - 32% fav. 30% unfav.
Nelson favoribility rating - 44% fav. 10% unfav.
Republicans - Harris 64% Nelson 17%
Democrats - Harris 8% Nelson - 86%
Independents - Harris 27% Nelson 54%

I guess polarizing is an understatement when applied to Katherine Harris, but nevertheless these numbers need to turn around fast or the GOP will be righting off on if it's key '06 races.

And what will it take to do this? MONEY! I believe Harris will be able to fundraise very well, and most likely outspend Bill Nelson by a lot. Why can't Nelson fundraise? Partially because Howard Dean won't raise enough money to match the RNC's contributions to Harris, and also because the Florida Democratic Party, with Nelson the only statewide elected official, has almost no money.
I really thought this seat would be competietive, but a candidate coming in with only 65% of her party's vote doesn't look good. Expect Rove and Co. to do some early testing, and if necessary yank the funds from Florida to defend Rick Santorum or win Senate seats in Maryland, Washington, Michigan, or elsewhere.

EDIT: Looking at the previously mentioned SurveyUSA poll, Nelson polls a 47% appoval rating, with 29% disapproving. Those aren't terrible numbers for Harris to work with, but what is horrible is again the internals, showing more Democrats disapprove of Nelson then Republicans, and 49% approval by members of bith parties. Also, more who call themselves conservative approve of Nelson then those who consider themselves liberal.
An important discrepancy between the polls is that while Mason-Dixon gives Nelson over 80% of the black vote, his SurveyUSA approval is only 33% for vs. 44% against umong blacks. I think this is a demographic where Harris' polarity scares away voters not all to comfortable with Nelson.

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