MIAMI, Fla. -- A surprising surge by mega-millionaire Rick Scott in the Republican race to replace Charlie Crist as Florida governor puts the political neophyte 13 points ahead of Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Thursday.
Scott, who came to enjoy some name recognition as a vocal opponent of the health insurance overhaul enacted into law earlier this year, has ubiquitously used television ads, to strongly criticize McCollum for saying that the Arizona immigration law would not work in Florida.
Scott has likened McCollum's stance on the heated issue to President Obama's position. McCollum has since backtracked his comments, and said last month that he would support a similar law.
Florida has one of the highest numbers of illegal immigrants in the nation, and is considered lax on the illegal immigration front compared to other populous states.
According to numbers compiled by The Miami Herald, Florida, the 4th largest state in the country, has nearly 750,000 illegal immigrants. Other surveys show Florida has the fourth highest concentration of illegal aliens behind California, Texas and New York.
The Center for Immigration Studies recently issued a report that estimated that in 2008, the number of undocumented immigrants in Arizona, where a tough new law has raised the immigration issue across the country, was as high as 560,000.
Scott however has been the target of recent attack ads against him from McCollum that concentrate on Scott's former company, Columbia/HCA hospital chain, for being in the middle of the largest Medicare fraud in U.S. history -- a controversy in the late 1990s that resulted in the company then helmed by Scott paying $1.7 billion in fines.
The McCollum TV ad buy has also included popular former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorsing McCollum. However, those ads do not seem to be affecting Scott's upwards trajectory within GOP voters in the Sunshine State.
Quinnipiac surveyed 814 likely Republican voters during the week of June 2-8. The poll has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.
Whoever wins the Aug. 24 primary election will face Democrat Alex Sink and independent Bud Chiles in the November election. Both trail far behind their GOP rivals, according to poll numbers released by the same polling institute on Wednesday.