He has consistently shot down suggestions that he run, but former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the most likely Republican to knock off Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in 2012, according to polling released Tuesday by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.
The findings, which are consistent with another Mason-Dixon poll released Thursday, show that Nelson fails to reach the 50 percent mark in any hypothetical matchup but enjoys leads of 5 to 23 points over more likely candidates.
Mason-Dixon surveyed 625 registered voters Feb. 9-10 and reported a 4-point margin of error.
“Bill Nelson will clearly have a much more difficult path to victory next year than he had in 2006. He is in trouble if voters in 2012 are looking to throw out career politicians like they did in the past election,” Mason-Dixon Managing Director Brad Coker said in a statement. “The fact that Sen. Nelson currently can’t crack 50 percent against any GOP challenger in a head-to-head match-up, including several lesser-known lawmakers, is a clear sign of vulnerability.”
Commissioned by the Florida-based firm Ron Sachs Communications, the poll found that Bush led Nelson 49 percent to 41 percent. While Bush is not expected to challenge Nelson, the incumbent fared far better among those more interested in running.
Nelson led state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who has already stated his intention to run, by 23 points — 48 percent to 25 percent. Likely suffering from low name recognition, Haridopolos is gathering enough money to remedy his relatively low profile. He raised roughly $1 million in campaign contributions at a single event last week, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
The closest race pits Nelson against Rep. Connie Mack IV (R), son of the man whom Nelson replaced in 2000. Mack trailed Nelson 40 percent to 45 percent. And against former Sen. George LeMieux (R), Nelson led 49 percent to 35 percent.