At times, it has appeared that the only way Democrats could lose the gubernatorial race in Florida would be to nominate someone who could manage to be less popular than incumbent Republican Rick Scott. Apparently, they decided to put that theory to the test, and may be losing the gamble. Survey USA reports that Scott has started to gain a little momentum in the race — or more accurately, Charlie Crist is starting to stumble:

Is it an early indicator of things to come? Or is it just statistical noise? For the first time, the WFLA-TV poll that is tracking the Florida Governor’s contest shows Republican Rick Scott in front — Scott at 42%, Democrat Charlie Crist at 40%, according to SurveyUSA data gathered as voters get ready for the Memorial Day weekend. Compared to an identical SurveyUSA poll 10 days ago, Scott is up 1 point, Crist is down 4 points, a 5-point shift to the right.

Here is where there is movement: in Central Florida, which includes 19 counties surrounding Orlando, Scott has gained ground in each of 4 tracking polls and today leads there 47% to 34%. You can see it here. Among moderates, Crist had a 25-point advantage 10 days ago, now a 12-point advantage. You can see it here. Among males, Crist has been steadily losing ground, and now trails by 14 points; the Gender Gap is today 26 points. Crist’s support is down among whites, down among blacks. Among Cubans, Scott now leads 2:1.

This may not be as surprising as it looks. The most recent Quinnipiac poll, taken a month ago, put Crist up by 10 points, but that’s more of an outlier than this result. The RCP average of polls shows Crist up only 2.4 points, with this poll and the Q-poll included. Magellan, a Republican polling firm, also had Scott up by two in mid-April (45/43), but Mason-Dixon had it even at 42-up in the following week.

Besides, Survey USA usually does good work in state and Congressional races, and they have their own series on this election as they note above. The shift in the polling within the series clearly highlights an erosion of support from Crist, even if that support isn’t necessarily benefiting Scott at the moment.

The Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo links it to a robust kickoff from Team Scott, while Crist has to wait to spend for another month or more:

After a $10 million ad blitz in just over two months, Gov. Rick Scott has started to pull ahead of Democrat Charlie Crist in a new poll that shows the Republican incumbent leading 42-40 percent.

The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for Tampa’s WFLA NBC affiliate, indicates that Scott isn’t surging as much as he’s dragging down Crist. …

The better-funded Scott has been advertising away, and Crist hasn’t had the money to start responding. Expect Crist to go up sometime in June, perhaps early July at the latest. The Democratic Governors Association might help out.

A sign if Crist is hurt: If he’s spending a big chunk of his money in his homebase of Tampa Bay, where Scott has spent a plurality of his ad money, 29 percent.  Scott’s second-biggest advertising market, Orlando, accounts for 21 percent of his spending. Together, the governor has spent half of his money in those two I-4 corridor markets, the swing area of the swing state.

Actually, this looks familiar. When challenged by Marco Rubio, Crist initially had a big lead, but his campaign nosedived in the spring as voters began to pay more attention to the race and the candidates. Democrats might want to consider that when voting in their own primary in August.