Poll: Crist's conservative GOP challenger catching up

Turning a romp into a race, U.S. Senate contender Marco Rubio has cut Gov. Charlie Crist's lead in half in a new Quinnipiac University poll.

Crist, who surpassed Rubio by 29 points in an August survey, now leads 50-35 percent in the contest for Florida's open Senate seat, according to the survey released Wednesday.

"His margin is still formidable, but obviously Marco Rubio's focus on convincing Republican conservatives that he, not Crist, is their kind of guy is bearing fruit," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The former House speaker who is little known outside of Miami-Dade has been doing the Republican club circuit for months, while Crist is just starting to ramp up. He began airing a radio ad in Southwest Florida last week, and his chief of staff stepped down Tuesday to begin working as campaign manager.

Crist received the worst job approval rating since his 2006 election. But at 59 percent, he is doing better than many other governors struggling with state budgets ransacked by the recession.

Crist also publicly supported the economic stimulus package signed in February by President Barack Obama, infuriating many of the state's conservatives.


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