In a poll of 492 likely Republican primary voters sampled between March 5 and March 8, 2010, Public Policy Polling reports that former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio leads Governor Charlie Crist by a margin of 60 percent to 28 percent in their contest for the U.S. Senate nomination.

Mr. Rubio maintains a strong lead of 71 percent to 17 percent among self-described conservatives, and trails by 49 percent to 36 percent among moderates. Of the Republicans surveyed, 65 percent identified themselves as conservative, 31 percent identified themselves as moderates, and four percent identified themselves as liberal.

Some of the polling results may be particularly troubling for the governor. Fifty percent of the Republican respondents said they thought Gov. Crist was “too liberal,” 56 percent disapproved of his job performance, and 56 percent said they would prefer to see Gov. Crist “out of elected office” a year from now. Asked about a hypothetical primary contest in which Gov. Crist would seek reelection to his current post rather than running for the Senate, 49 percent of the Republican respondents said they would vote for the current presumptive Republican candidate, Attorney General Bill McCollum, and 35 percent would vote for Gov. Crist.

Public Policy Polling also surveyed 849 Florida voters from March 5 – 8, 2010 on general election issues. Both potential Republican candidates maintained a lead over the presumptive Democratic Senate nominee, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-17th Congressional District), with Gov. Crist leading by 46 percent to 33 percent and Mr. Rubio leading by 44 percent to 39 percent. The firm also asked about a hypothetical three-way race in which Gov. Crist would run as an Independent. In a three-way matchup, Mr. Rubio would receive 34 percent of the vote, Gov. Crist would receive 27 percent, and Rep. Meek would receive 25 percent.

The margin of error for the Republican-only questions was 4.4 percent, and the margin of error for the general election questions was 3.4 percent.