TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Florida Gov. Rick Scott stormed into office as part of a Republican wave that crossed the state and country.
Just two years later, a new poll shows Scott's brief political career may be in jeopardy, and even some Republicans are beginning to have their doubts about him.
The new poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University shows 52 percent of the state's registered voters don't think Scott deserves a second term. Scott's job approval numbers remain under 40 percent, which has been the case since shortly after he narrowly defeated Democrat Alex Sink.
Even 53 percent of Republicans say they would support a GOP challenger to take Scott on. It's quite a turnaround considering that Scott himself waged a maverick bid in 2010 to defeat Attorney General Bill McCollum in the Republican primary for governor.
“It's tough to sugarcoat these numbers,'' said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “They are not very good for the governor.''
Scott, during a radio interview, brushed aside the poll numbers and said he was focused on his work.
An internal assessment of the poll circulated among Scott advisors points out that President Barack Obama had similarly bad numbers 14 months ahead of his re-election and still carried the state. The assessment noted the improving economy and the possibility of Charlie Crist running against Scott as positive developments.
“Anyone who dismisses Gov. Scott and his chances does so at their own peril,'' according the memo written by Tony Fabrizio and Tony Tunis. “Gov. Scott has nearly a year longer to reverse negative numbers similar to what the president had, therefore it seems irresponsible and hasty to count the governor out from making an equal, if not stronger, turn around.''
The poll comes amid ongoing speculation that some Republicans are worried about Scott. But it still appears unlikely that Scott will have to worry about a serious challenge from within his own party.
Top Republican contenders have said they don't plan to run for governor, and Scott supporters say they will stick with him, contending he has kept his vows to cut government spending and keep taxes down during tough economic times.
“I don't see anybody challenging him,'' said Rep. Jimmy Patronis, a Panama City Republican who backed Scott in the 2010 primary. “If they do they will run into a buzz saw of fierce supporters who appreciate him taking the bullets.''
Joe Gruters, chairman of the Sarasota Republican Party, said he was elected to a new term with the goal of re-electing Scott.
“I think the governor has proven his worth as a conservative,'' Gruters said. “It's easy to be governor when you have surpluses and you can be a Santa Claus.''
Scott has other advantages, including a hefty bank account. Scott's political committee has already raised more than $5 million to aid his re-election effort. The former hospital chain executive has said he doesn't want to dip into his own pocket in 2014. Last time he used more than $70 million of his own money.
The new poll _ which was a survey of 1,261 registered voters _ shows Scott's overall approval numbers have dropped to 36 percent. A poll in August gave Scott a job approval rating of 41 percent, but that was a poll of “likely'' voters not registered voters.
Scott's low numbers persist even when broken down by gender, race, income levels or education. Among Republicans, he has just a 63 percent job approval rating.
Only 31 percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Scott, while Crist has a 47 percent favorable rating.
Crist was elected in 2006 as a Republican but became an independent when he mounted an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate. Crist this year endorsed President Barack Obama and became a Democrat last week. Crist's decision to switch parties has heightened speculation he will challenge Scott.
Pollsters also asked voters about Sink, as well as other potential Democratic challengers. Most voters had not heard of the other Democrats. Sink only had a 27 percent favorable rating, while 57 percent said they had not heard enough about her.
The Quinnipiac University poll has an error margin of plus or minus 2.8 percent.