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Jeff Greene Opens Lead Over Kendrick Meek in Florida Democratic Senate Primary

Jeff Greene, a Democratic candidate for Florida's Senate seat, gestures as he speaks to reporters from the Florida Press Association in Sarasota, Fla., June 17, 2010. CBSNews.com Special Report: Campaign 2010
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Greene gestures as he speaks to reporters from the Florida Press Association in Sarasota, Fla.
AP

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that billionaire Jeff Greene has leapfrogged ahead of Rep. Kendrick Meek in Florida's Democratic Senate race. The survey shows Meek with a ten-point lead over the congressman.

The poll, released today, has Greene leading Meek by a 33 to 23 percent margin with a little more than three weeks left before the state's August 24th primary. The numbers are even more staggering considering that in a similar poll taken last month, Greene trailed Meek 29 to 27 percent.

Peter A. Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac's polling institute, says the turnaround can largely be attributed to Greene's sizable wealth.

"If there was any doubt that enough money can make a political unknown into a front-runner, the Democratic Senate primary...should lay them to rest," Brown said.

But there was a silver lining for Meek: According to the same survey, 35 percent of respondents said they were undecided and 54 percent of those who named a candidate said they might change their minds - suggesting that there might be some room for growth for Meek.

Meek's recently unveiled his first television ad labeling Greene a billionaire carpetbagger who "helped fuel the economic meltdown."

Greene made most of his fortune betting on the fall of the housing market and has been criticized for his involvement with some unusual characters, including former boxer Mike Tyson and Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.

But Brown said that Greene's fortune and the current anti-incumbent environment may be too much for Meek to overcome.

The Democratic primary results might not mean much when it comes to who ultimately wins the Senate seat in Florida, as Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist and presumptive Republican nominee Marco Rubio hold strong leads over both Greene and Meek. Crist, in fact, is more popular among Democrats than either Democratic candidate.

A recent Rasmussen poll shows Crist with a double-digit lead over both Meek and Greene and trailing Rubio by two points in a head-to-head matchup.