TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Former Gov. Charlie Crist is leading Republican Gov. Rick Scott by 8 points in a poll released Thursday.
The poll by Quinnipiac University also found that 54 percent do not think Scott deserves a second term as governor and that 41 percent approve of the job he's doing.
The gap between Scott and Crist is closer than it was in a poll taken in March 2013, when Crist led by 16 points.
But the gap has remained relatively unchanged since November, when the last poll showed Scott trailing Crist by 7 points.
"At least for now, Florida Gov. Rick Scott's comeback against his major Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, has stalled after considerably narrowing the Crist lead in 2013," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Crist, a former Republican who eventually switched to the Democratic Party, formally announced in November that he was challenging Scott. Scott's campaign immediately ran television ads bashing Crist. Since then the Republican Party of Florida also has been criticizing Crist on a daily basis.
Scott does not mention Crist directly by name, but he constantly tries to remind voters that the state's unemployment rate went up in the four years before he took office in 2011.
Yet the poll shows that by a 53-to-36 percent margin, voters approve of the job that Crist did as governor.
Scott, who narrowly won election in 2010, has struggled with lackluster poll ratings during his entire term. But in anticipation of a tough re-election, Scott and his campaign have aggressively raised millions of dollars and built up a sizable campaign account.
The poll found that voters prefer Scott over another Democratic challenger - former state Sen. Nan Rich - by 41 percent to 37 percent.
The poll also found that 73 percent support raising the state's minimum wage from the current $7.93 an hour. Democrats have come out in favor of the idea, but Scott and other Republicans are opposed.
Quinnipiac polled 1,565 registered voters from Jan. 22 to Jan. 27. The margin of error in the poll is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
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