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Wealthy Insurgents May Fall Short in Florida

Democratic Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek answers a question as he speaks to the Florida Press Association in Sarasota, Fla., June 17, 2010. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Despite pouring tens of millions of dollars into their respective campaigns in an election year presumed to favor outsiders, two Florida businessmen are stuck in tight races against established politicians one day before Florida's Democratic and Republican primaries.

Recent polls show Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek leading his Senate primary challenger, real estate mogul Jeff Greene, while Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum remains locked in a tight battle against businessman Rick Scott for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. A number of both Democratic and Republican voters remain undecided.

Meek leads Greene 39 percent to 29 percent in the Democratic Senate primary, a Quinnipiac University poll released today shows. The poll gives McCollum a slimmer lead of 39 percent to 35 percent over Scott in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Twenty-two percent of Republican likely voters remained undecided, as well as 28 percent of Democratic likely voters.

Similarly, a Mason-Dixon poll released Saturday showed Meek with a double-digit lead over Greene (42 percent to 30 percent), while McCollum had a clear lead over Scott (45 percent to 36 percent). The Mason-Dixon poll showed 23 percent of Democratic voters remained undecided, as well as 15 percent of Republican voters.

Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, which conducts automated polls, also gave Meek a strong lead in a poll released over the weekend. This firm, however, showed Scott leading McCollum 47 percent to 40 percent -- within the poll's margin of error.

Scott and Greene, both political outsiders, have made substantial personal investments in their campaigns. Scott has spent $38.9 million of his own fortune, while Greene has dumped $23 million into his own campaign, outspending Meek four to one. Special Report: Campaign 2010

Nevertheless, today's Quinnipiac poll shows that after a summer of negative campaigning from all sides, Florida voters have net negative views about both wealthy insurgent candidates.

While Scott and Greene have had the advantage of their financial fortunes, they were hampered by certain details about their past. Scott was CEO of the hospital chain Columbia/HCA before it was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud. Greene made hundreds of millions of dollars from the nationwide housing bust and has been dogged by headlines this summer about escapades on his 145-foot yacht.

The winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary is expected to face off against Democratic candidate Alex Sink. Sink is expected to win the Democratic primary, but she remains unknown to about half of Florida voters.

If Meek beats Greene in the Democratic Senate primary, he will be up against Republican candidate Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the Republican party to run as an independent. The White House and the Democratic establishment would almost certainly give Meek public support in the general election campaign. At the same time, Democrats are expected to appeal to Crist to caucus with their party should he win the race.

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