WASHINGTON, Sept 15 Republican candidate Marco
Rubio has opened a clear lead in a Florida Senate race,
becoming the latest "Tea Party" favorite to benefit from voter
anger at Washington, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found on Wednesday.
Six weeks ahead of Nov. 2 congressional elections, Rubio
leads state Governor Charlie Crist, an independent, by 40
percent to 26 percent among likely voters, the poll found.
Democrat Kendrick Meek trails at 21 percent.
The conservative Tea Party roiled Republican politics when
a little-known candidate backed by the movement beat a veteran
lawmaker in Delaware on Tuesday in the race to decide the
Republican nominee for Senate in the November election.
The Tea Party is a loose-knit group of mostly Republicans
concerned about reducing government spending and debt who are
strong critics of President Barack Obama. The group is gaining
support this election season.
Florida, like other states, has a large "enthusiasm gap"
with Republicans far more motivated to vote in November than
Democrats. The poll said 82 percent of Republicans said they
are certain to vote, compared to 61 percent of Democrats.
Crist, a former Republican who turned independent, and Meek
are likely splitting Democratic votes, according to the poll.
When voters were asked their choice between Rubio and Crist
if Meek was not in the race, the contest is essentially tied --
Rubio 46 percent, and Crist 45 percent.
Crist still has strong job approval ratings as Florida
governor, with a majority of Floridians saying they approve of
the way he is handling his job.
The poll found the race to replace Crist as governor is
very close with Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink
statistically tied, Scott with 47 percent and Sink with 45
Concern about the economy in Florida has increased 10
points since the last poll in early July -- 61 percent said the
economy is the biggest problem facing the state, up from 51
percent. This could be related to declining concern about the
BP Plc oil spill that afflicted the Gulf area.
The Ipsos poll of 600 registered Florida voters, of which
486 said they are likely to vote, has a margin of error of plus
or minus 4 percentage points among registered voters and 4.6
percentage points among likely voters.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Eric Beech)