Crist Has Risen -- Above Both Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, According to Poll

Former Gov. Charlie Crist is still in the good graces of Florida voters, according to what we swear is the last Sunshine State News poll we're publishing this week.

Crist was the only one -- between himself and Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson -- to receive a favorable rating above 40 percent from poll respondents, scoring 42 percent approval and 33 percent disapproval.

That's not a surprising victory for Crist, considering Rubio and Nelson are actually in office right now.

For those who missed Sunshine State News' other commissioned polls this week, Tuesday's results found Floridians would favor Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in a hypothetical presidential matchup, and Wednesday's poll showed Gov. Rick Scott's approval rating is still in the crapper.

Crist, as you may remember, lost big time in his battle for a U.S. Senate seat against Rubio.

Rubio still received a favorable rating from poll respondents -- 38 percent to 34 percent -- but Nelson didn't catch the same response.

Those surveyed had an unfavorable rating of Nelson -- 27 percent favorable to 32 percent unfavorable.

That unfavorable rating of Nelson might not mean much, though, since nearly 41 percent of respondents either said they had no opinion of Nelson or were "not aware" of who he is.

For those of you who are unaware of who Nelson is, might we remind you that he's been in public office in or representing Florida almost every year since 1972. He's been one of Florida's two U.S. senators since 2001.

But if people don't know who he is after nearly 40 years of public service, that's not too great considering he's up for reelection next year.

Crist and Rubio also received more favorable ratings from those who identified themselves as Independents, while Nelson did not.

University of South Florida St. Petersburg Professor Seth McKee tells Sunshine State News that regardless of Nelson's unfavorable rating, he could still win his seat with ease in the next election if his Republican foes don't drop the Tea Party talk.

"My guess is that most statewide Florida politicians suffer from the same affliction of not being very well known by the voters," McKee tells the paper, and also says, "If the GOP nominee is beholden to the Tea Party and fails to move to the center in the general election then Sen. Nelson will easily win reelection."

Moving to the center hasn't been in the plans of the Republican candidates, as they're already battling over who's more toward the fringe right.

Click here for the entire results from the Sunshine State News poll.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley