U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida)
Tallahassee, Florida - Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson surges to an eight point lead over Republican Congressman Connie Mack, according to a new poll.
Nelson leads Mack 44 to 36 percent in the poll by Quinnipiac University. In January, the two men were locked in a dead heat.
Sen. Nelson is getting a boost from President Barack Obama's improving poll numbers in Florida, according to poll spokesman Peter Brown. The president leads GOP presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
The poll shows women voters are fueling the gains for Sen. Nelson and President Obama.
David Bergstein of the Florida Democratic Party attributes the changing poll numbers to a growing discontent with Republican ideas.
"You're seeing a real rejection from voters of the extreme Tea Party rhetoric coming out of Republicans whether that's trying to end Medicare as we know it, or whether that's an unprecedented assault on women and policies that restrict access to lifesaving healthcare for women, seeing a real rejection of the GOP's policies and it's certainly hurting them here in Florida."
Republican strategist Rick Wilson says he expects the U.S. Senate race to tighten once Republicans end their primary squabbling and pick their candidate in August.
"I think as voters begin to focus on the general election they're going to look at Bill Nelson as a guy who's been a rubber stamp for Barack Obama, a guy who has a failed economic record in this state and this country and I think you're going to see an inevitable shift back to a tighter race than it is today."
Wilson says the Republican candidate will emerge from the primary with a strong message about the economy and limited government.