Six weeks ago Floridians were giving both Barack Obama and Rick Scott bad marks. The two men’s ratings have diverged dramatically since, with Obama rising, thanks in large part to the killing of Osama bin laden, and Scott falling, thanks in large part to the different sort of targeted executions he led through the legislature and the state’s budget. (Signing the budget today, Scott eliminated an additional $615 million, though $300 million of that was money for Florida Forever, the environmental program, that had never been appropriated.)
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, meanwhile–the lone surviving Democrat in a statewide office in Florida–appears headed for re-election. He holds comfortable leads over all three prospective opponents.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll released today, Obama’s approval is at 51 percent, against 44 percent disapproval, a reversal from April 7, when he was disapproved by 52 percent of the electorate and approved by just 44 percent. Matched against an unnamed Republican, Obama is ahead by 7 points (44 to 37 percent), also a reversal from April, when he trailed by three points.
Nelson holds leads ranging from 20 to 25 points over his three potential Republican challengers for re-election in 2012–State Senate President Mike Haridopolos, former Sen. George LeMieux and former state House majority leader Adam Hasner. The three men have little name recognition outside of government circles or their own districts. Nelson’s overall approval rating is 51 percent, against 24 percent disapproval.
“Whether these numbers represent a ‘bin Laden bounce,’ President Barack Obama’s popularity is up in Florida, which will be a crucial state for him in the 2012 campaign,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “The good news for the president is that by 50 – 44 percent Florida voters say Obama deserves a second term in the Oval Office, compared to April when they said 51 – 42 percent that he did not.”
Florida is, as always since the 1980s, a critical swing state in presidential elections.
But the bin Laden factor may not be the only one playing into the new numbers. The GOP’s proposal to privatize Medicare–under U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan–is not playing well with voters: elderly voters bristle at any suggestion of scaling back the government insurance program for the elderly, which is why Ryan’s pl;an exempts those older than 55 from any changes. But the exemption sent a signal to younger voters that their future Medicare benefits are in jeopardy, likely affecting reactions among some of those voters as well.
The GOP was hoping that Obama’s stance on Israel, following his May 19 speech on the Middle East and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, would hurt his standing among South Florida’s Jewish voters, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008. Obama said that the starting point for negotiations in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be Israel’s 1967 borders, before it occupied the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Numerous members of Congress, particularly Republicans, attacked the president for being weak on Israel, while the Republican Party played up the talking points of Obama as anti-Israel with South Florida voters in mind. The maneuver appears to have had little effect. The polling was conducted from May 17 to May 23, mostly after the Obama speech. (Polling involved 1,196 registered voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.)
The poll breaks down results between Republicans, Democrats, independents, men, women, and white, born-again evangelicals. In that regard, while Obama gets a 51 percent overall approval in Florida, he gets just 13 percent approval from Republicans and 20 percent from evangelicals. His support among Democrats is 86 percent. The key in Florida, however, is independents, whose ranks are growing faster than either of the two established parties. Among independents, Obama gets a 47 percent approval.
Asked to look ahead to toe 2012 election, 50 percent of those polled said Obama deserves another term, while 44 percent say he does not. That’s up from 42 percent six weeks ago. Among Republicans, just 10 percent say he deserves another term, and just 16 percent of evangelicals do, while 45 percent of independents do.