Hit by a bad economy and election-year politics, Gov. Charlie Crist's popularity is starting to fade a bit, according to a new poll.
About 57 percent of Floridians rate Crist's job performance as "excellent'' or "good,'' the poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. says. While that's still a strong number, it's down from his sky-high 70 percent rating in June 2007.
The numbers could have been slightly lower, but Crist is likely enjoying a bounce from his week of statewide news media exposure handling Tropical Storm Fay from the Keys to the Space Coast to the state capital.
The poll also shows Floridians are likely to approve a constitutional gay-marriage ban, favor offshore oil-drilling by big margins and probably won't support a so-called "tax swap'' plan that has been striken from the Nov. 4 ballot anyway.
Those survey results don't surprise Brad Coker, Mason-Dixon pollster, as much as Crist's numbers, which bring the Republican into the same strata as former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose Mason-Dixon job-approval poll average in his eight years was about 58 percent.
Crist, who fashioned himself as a more bipartisan leader than Bush, has become less popular with independents and Democrats now. But he has increased his support among Republicans, just like the more polarizing Bush.
"The shine is fading a little bit. The numbers are becoming partisan,'' Coker said. "We're getting back to Jeb Bush days. He's being viewed in a more partisan light.''
While North Floridians view him most favorably (65 percent) South Floridians are the most negative about Crist, with only 45 percent saying he's doing an excellent or good job. Not only is South Florida a liberal bastion, it was the center for cries for big property-tax cuts that Crist didn't deliver.