Scott, Nelson neck-and-neck (redux)

A second poll shows Florida voters are evenly split between U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott are tied in a potential match-up.

Scott hasn’t announced that he’s running against Nelson, a long-serving Democrat, but everybody expects the Republican governor, who’s amassed a hefty campaign war chest, to jump into the race.

A MasonDixon Polling & Research poll released late Wednesday showed both Nelson and Scott with 44 percent support of Floridians, with 12 percent undecided.

That’s a bounce for Scott, who trailed Nelson by 5 percentage points in a February poll also conducted by Mason-Dixon.

Pollster Brad Coker attributed the jump in Scott’s popularity to independent voters, who favored Scott over Nelson 44-40 percent. In February, Nelson held a 9 percentage-point lead over Scott with independents.

Scott is also up among whites, males and older voters, while Nelson has firmer advantages among women, younger voters, blacks and Hispanics.

The poll also showed Scott’s favorability at 44 percent, compared to 38 percent for Nelson. But more voters also view Scott unfavorably, with 33 percent to Nelson’s 21 percent.

Scott also edged out Nelson in job performance ratings, with 53 percent of those surveyed approving of the governor’s performance and 50 percent giving Nelson a nod.

The two-term governor also has a better brand than Nelson, who’s represented Florida in the U.S. Senate for 16 years.

When asked “Do you recognize the name?” of the two politicians, 2 percent were unaware of Scott and 14 percent didn’t recognize Nelson.

The poll, conducted Oct. 17-19,  shows Scott creeping up on Nelson, who held a 5 percentage-point edge over the governor in a survey conducted in February. In that poll, independent voters gave the senator a 9 percentage-point lead.

And the Mason-Dixon poll mirrors results in a University of North Florida survey released earlier this week that found Nelson and Scott virtually tied — 37-36, with Nelson’s slight lead within the margin of error.

Poll results from Mason-Dixon released late Wednesday showed Floridians gave Scott high marks for his handling of Hurricane Irma.

 On the heels of that poll, Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” political committee launched a $2 million ad campaign this week — starring Scott with his ubiquitous, storm-induced Navy ballcap — that boasts of the governor’s storm relief efforts.

Nelson used Scott’s ad campaign to raise money for his own campaign.

“Gov. Rick Scott just purchased $2 million in TV ads to try to boost his campaign against me here in Florida. And what’s worse: By not ‘officially’ declaring he’s running yet, Scott is able to avoid our campaign finance laws and use the unlimited corporate money in his PAC to pay for them,” Nelson said in a campaign email on Wednesday. “The timing of these ads isn’t a coincidence — just yesterday, a new poll came out showing our race here in Florida is close. And it looks like Scott and his right-wing friends are willing to spend big now to try to take an early lead.”

The latest Mason-Dixon results, show Nelson and Scott with heavy support from within their own parties.

Nelson is up 47-percent to 40-percent among women, 87-percent to 4-percent with black voters and 54-percent to 32-percent among Hispanics.

Scott has the white voters, 54-percent to 34-percent, and men, 49-percent to 40-percent.

Nelson has voters 34 years and younger, 50-percent to 35 percent. It a tie among the 35-to-49-year-olds, a statistic tie favoring Scott among those 50 to 64, and a 49-percent to 41-percent contest for Scott among those 65 years and older.

The poll was conducted Oct. 17-19, with 625 registered Florida self-identified frequent voters interviewed by telephone. The  poll had a 4-percentage point margin of error.

By Dara Kam and Jim Turner.