MIAMI, Fl- Alex Sink, the Democrat in the Florida's governor's race is leading Republican Rick Scott 45 percent to 41 percent in a new Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday. However, another 11 percent are undecided and 9 percent of those who name a candidate say they might change their mind in the final few days before Election Day, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 3.5.
"This race looks like it will go to the finish line as a dead heat," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac said.
The new survey was conducted just prior to Monday's CNN/St Petersburg Times debate between the two candidates that included Sink's cell-phone snafu during a commercial break. The incident violated the debate rules, and turned into a national story that has persisted throughout the week, even after Sink fired the staffer, Brian May, who was responsible for sending the text message an hour after the debate.
In an interview with FOX News Wednesday, Sink reiterated that she had initially worried that the text message handed to her on a smart phone by her make-up artist during a commercial, may have been an urgent message from her daughter who is studying abroad in England.
"My mom's instincts took over, when somebody sticks a phone and says ' There is an urgent message for you'. I looked at it, and it didn't really make any sense to me," Sink said. " Fortunately, it was not about my daughter who is out of state right now, and I just ignored it."
Sink also stressed that the violation, dubbed 'ICheat', by some Florida media, "wasn't right" and felt compelled to fire May.
"I didn't know what it was about. After the debate, I went out and said ' what was that all about' and I learned that one of my campaign advisors had sent the message and within an hour, I dismissed him from my campaign because he shouldn't have done it."
Scott ,who has been hammered by Sink's ad blitz over his tenure as head of a hospital chain in the 1990's which was immersed in a major Medicare fraud scandal, quickly pounced on Sink's debate mishap. Scott produced a web and a radio ad attacking Sink for cheating during the debate."Do you see Alex Sink get caught cheating?" Scott's radio ad announces at one point. Scott, who is locked in a dead-heat wish Sink, said to local reporters earlier in the week that he was "shocked" about the incident. "You mean when CNN caught her breaking the debate rules and getting a note from her coach? Cheating. Hilarious."
Speaking to Fox News Wednesday, Sink's campaign said they felt that CNN's John King, who co-moderated the debate, unfairly portrayed their candidate the day after the debate (and kept the story alive) when he contradicted Sink's description that she thought the message handed to her on a cell phone might be from her daughter.
King said the network looked at video and listened to audio closely after the debate and Sink clearly knew that it was from staff.
However, Sink's campaign said Thursday that they enhanced the audio, and slowed down the video of the controversial commercial through a non-linear editing software which disproves King's "misrepresentation" of the event, they said.
Sink spokesman Dan McLaughlin says the video proves Sink did not know initially who the message was from:
"The video confirms that Alex Sink's public remarks about the events occurring during Monday's debate are consistent and accurate.âÂ¬ The makeup artist placed the phone in front of Sink in full view of everyone, including the cameras, while telling her only that 'now, here's this phone'. Not until after Sink viewed the text did the makeup artist say: ‘ I don't know who that's from - if it's from Brian?' at that point, the video and audio show that Sink returned the phone," McLaughlin said in a phone interview "The total running time that she viewed the text message was 6.8 seconds."âÂ¬
"CNN's claims that Sink knew the text message came from a campaign source is false. It is simply not true." McLaughlin added.
Earlier in the day, a staffer told us that they were frustrated that King, they said, "had injected himself into the story as a news maker."
The interview with FNC followed an email blast by the Sink campaign to several reporters which including an editorial, and article from the St. Petersburg Times that essentially backs their time line over King's.
The election will be held on Tuesday of next week.
Fox News National Correspondent Phil Keating contributed to this report.