TAMPA — A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Charlie Crist with a larger lead in the governor's race than other recent polls at the same time the Crist campaign is leaking news he has hired a campaign manager with strong Tampa ties.
The poll shows Crist up 46-38 percent over Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a contrast with two other recent polls that showed Crist clinging to narrow leads. He held a 2-point lead in a Public Policy Polling survey two weeks ago, and a 4-point lead in University of North Florida survey in October.
Crist's campaign manager will be Omar Khan, a veteran Florida political operative and Obama administration appointee, and a former University of South Florida student body president.
Khan, 33, has been president of the Florida Young Democrats, has worked for Democratic parties in Florida and other states, and was associate political director for President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign.
Khan replaces Bill Hyers, another Democratic rising star, who signed on with the campaign in November then left abruptly for reasons the campaign never explained before actually starting work.
Recently, Khan has held appointed jobs in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Task Force.
He's well-liked among Florida Democrats.
“He is one of the brightests political minds in the country,” said Tallahassee lawyer, former mayor and former state Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox, who knew Khan at USF and worked with him during the 2004 campaign, “He is a field genius, and our fortunes lie in whether we can mobilize a field operation.”
A campaign spokesman said Khan was not available for interviews.
The poll shows Crist up 46-38 percent over Scott, a substantial drop from his 50-34 percent lead March 20, but little changed from his 47-40 lead in November.
Scott led Nan Rich, competing with Crist for the Democratic nomination, by 41-37 percent in the poll. The Republican governor got a negative job approval rating, 41 percent favorable and 49 percent unfavorable.
By margins ranging from broad to narrow, voters in the poll said Crist would be better at handling education, protecting the middle class, health care and the economy — his narrowest win — and said he was more trustworthy.
Crist had strong leads among poll respondents who identified themselves as independents — 48-32 percent — and among women, 50-34 percent.
Scott won among white voters, 46-39 percent, and tied among men, with 42 percent to Crist's 43 percent.
The Jan. 22-27 Quinnipiac poll included telephone interviews with 1,565 registered voters, for an error margin of 2.5 percentage points. Error margins for partial samples, such as no-party voters, males or females, are larger.