After Charlie Crist passed on an opportunity to get an easy re-election win as Governor in Florida to run for the US Senate, most people figured Attorney General Bill McCollum would easily win the Republican nomination, and almost as easily win the general election.  Just as with the Senate race, though, an unexpected challenge has set the establishment candidate on his heels.  Rick Scott, former CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain and an activist against ObamaCare over the past year, has spent millions of his own money to introduce himself to Florida voters, and they seem to like what they see, according to a poll out today by Quinnipiac:

Political neophyte Rick Scott has surged to a 44 – 31 percent lead over Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum in the race for the Republican nomination for governor, apparently powered by a multi-million dollar television ad blitz to introduce him to voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. …

Scott, a former health care executive, began running television commercials this spring when McCollum held a huge lead over State Sen. Paula Dockery, his only challenger for the GOP nomination for governor. But she dropped out of the race once the size of Scott’s financial resources and willingness to spend became apparent.

“In addition to being a testament to the power of television, Scott’s ability to take the lead so quickly is also a reflection on McCollum’s lack of strong support within his own party despite his two decades in Florida politics,” said Brown.

Scott is viewed favorably by 40 percent of Republicans; unfavorably by 12 percent and 46 percent say they don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. McCollum, in his third statewide race and having spent a decade in Congress, is viewed favorably by 41 percent; unfavorably by 19 percent and 36 percent don’t have an opinion.

It looks less like a reflection on McCollum than a distrust of establishment candidates — and not just among Republicans. The same poll shows the Democratic self-funder, Jeff Greene, moving into a statistical dead heat with Kendrick Meek, the establishment Democrat expected to win the Senate nomination until Greene belatedly joined the race. Greene has some heavy baggage, having made hundreds of millions of dollars shorting the housing industry over the last two years and embodying exactly the kind of heartless Wall Street financier that Democrats have demonized since 2008. That doesn’t seem to have slowed him down any.

Scott’s lead is an across-the-board affair. He leads with both men and women, and his favorability numbers are high despite a large percentage of people who have not yet known him. That indicates the success of his initial ad campaign, which has allowed Scott to define himself rather than get defined by his opposition or the media.

Other winds may be at his back, and at the GOP’s back, too. Floridians approve of the Arizona immigration-enforcement law by a whopping 30 points, 59/29, and favor an enforcement approach by an even wider margin, 68/24. Voters want Florida to pass a similar law, 55/34, and a majority do not believe it will result in discrimination towards Hispanics. More than eight in ten Floridians oppose any boycotts of Arizona, while only 11% offer support for the idea.

Update: I should have made clear that I was talking about the Democratic nomination for Senate in the above poll between Greene and Meek. The way it originally read, it sounds as if I meant the Democratic nomination for Governor. The poll looked at the GOP primary race for Governor and the Democratic primary race for the Senate. Sorry if I was not clear enough the first time around.