TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Jeb Bush would defeat his Democratic challengers were the gubernatorial election held now, but a majority of Floridians disapprove of his ideas on education, a new poll shows.
Floridians chose Bush over former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno of Miami by a 54-37 percent margin, according to the poll taken for The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times.
Those polled also preferred Bush over political novice Bill McBride by a 55-34 margin, although more than half of the respondents had never heard of the Tampa attorney.
In a survey of how all the Democratic candidates stacked up, respondents chose Reno over McBride by a 48-18 margin. Even in McBride's home county, Hillsborough, Reno was ahead 46 to 26 percent.
Two other Democratic candidates, House Minority Leader Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and state Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami, got 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively. Both are also having trouble raising enough money to compete with McBride and Reno.
A fourth of the Democratic voters surveyed said they were still undecided about their preference for governor.
The poll of 800 registered Florida voters was taken March 22-28 for the newspapers by Washington-based Schroth & Associates. The polling firm claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Bush could be vulnerable on his two biggest education initiatives: Abolishing the Board of Regents, which supervised the state university system, and providing taxpayer-funded vouchers to send children to private schools.
Fifty-six percent favor restoring a Regents-like system while 53 percent oppose vouchers, which provide public money for private school tuition for students in failing public schools.
"The governor has a negative job approval on education, and education dominates the political landscape," pollster Rob Schroth said.
"We plan to run a very aggressive campaign highlighting the governor's record of accomplishment on a variety of issues and obviously education will be one of the dominant themes," Bush campaign spokesman Todd Harris said Monday.
Nationally, Florida's governor's race is seen in part as a referendum on President Bush, who won Florida in 2000 after the U.S. Supreme Court stopped a hand recount of the disputed vote. But now he's even more popular here than his younger brother, with seven of 10 voters approving of the president's job performance.