Oh, Florida. Nelson surging over Mack

Something seems to be going on in Florida, and we’re not talking about giant mice or a dearth of space shuttle activity. I was first alerted to this by our friend William Jacobson who posed the question, “Can Florida be salvaged?” Having been unaware that the Sunshine State was in any imminent danger of being “lost” I read on to see the results of a recent Rasmussen poll he was referencing.

Incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson now posts double-digit leads over all three of his Republican challengers in Florida’s 2012 U.S. Senate race.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Florida Voters shows Nelson with 47% support to 36% for Congressman Connie Mack, his leading GOP opponent. Ten percent (10%) like some other candidate in the race, and seven percent (7%) are undecided.

Even with six full months left for this to play out, is it time to hit the panic button over the Florida Senate seat? Paul Mirengoff calls it a “wake up call” over the fact that Mack has run what many describe as a lackluster, tepid campaign. But as always, we watch the trends more than the hard numbers in these polls, so we have to ask whether or not there’s enough data yet to draw conclusions.

As Jacobson and Mirengoff both note, this race has been bouncing around all over the place since the beginning of the year. Mack and Nelson were tied in February and Mack was actually slightly ahead in March. Thus far this is more of a sine wave than a dead slide, so it doesn’t appear terribly predictive.

The second point to consider is that the Florida GOP hopefuls are still involved in the primary process which always tends to depress the challengers’ numbers. The head to head match-up between Mack and Nelson includes not only 7% undecided, but 10% who prefer “some other candidate.” Those “others” include George LeMieux and Mike McCalister, each of whom score in the 30% range against Nelson. If the field clears and Connie Mack is the nominee, assuming he puts most of that 10% back in his pocket, we’re back to a tie inside the margins.

And finally, this is Florida we’re talking about. It’s a vast state with so many different demographic strongholds that it practically creates its own weather, as the saying goes. You can be standing inside of downtown Miami and then take a trip up to the panhandle and it’s like being in two different worlds. Winning a race there is almost as challenging as coming up with any accurate polling.

Bottom line? This one is far from being ripe enough to call, so nobody should be hitting the panic button just yet. But I agree that Mack hasn’t exactly been burning up the track in terms of running a high voltage campaign and the GOP may want to look into ways to pump up the energy levels there.