For a Florida Democrat who voted FOR health care reform, Bill Nelson's poll numbers are looking good

Let's stipulate that looking at any poll some 21 months away from an election doesn't mean that much in the long term.

But we live day to day - all of us - and for those who toil in Florida politics, a new Quinnipiac results gauging the Florida electorate's feelings towards incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is certainly significant, even this far ahead of the 2012 election.

Okay, now that we've justified why we should take a poll about an election so far ahead of the future seriously, what's it say?  The numbers are pretty good for Nelson, with voters approving of the Democrat's performance by a 45%-21% breakdown, with 43% saying he deserves re-election.  Some analysts will immediately seize upon the fact that he's at less than 50% and deduct he's vulnerable - but then again, you don't need this poll to know that many Senate Democrats are vulnerable in 2012, based on what happened at the polls three months ago, and Nelson has to be included in that mix (Unless the GOP nominates a candidate like Katherine Harris against the senior Senator, which they won't).

We've always considered Nelson a raging centrist who leans left on some issues, though we're on record as believing we'll see little of that as he tries to project that centrist image going into 2012. Those surveyed by Quinnipiac tend to agree, with 44% saying he's"about right" and just 23% saying he's too liberal.  46% do believe Nelson shares President Obama's views.

And Obama's views on issues like health care reform (which Nelson voted against repealing yesterday) and Afghanistan are similar to the President's, and against the views of the majority of Floridians surveyed.

The poll shows 50% of Floridians oppose health care reform, while 43% support it.  But on Afghanistan, the folks get it, with 54% opposing the war, and only 38% saying we should be fighting there.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos has already announced he's running for the GOP nomination for Senate, while former South Florida House Republican Adam Hasner is seriously considering getting into the ring.  Congressman Connie Mack IV is also somebody who sounds surely like he will run, which is why former interim Senator George LeMieux told a crowd of Tallahassee Republicans yesterday that he has to announce soon if he's going to run - and by all indications he's going to be.

LeMieux, who ultimately owes his past and perhaps future U.S. Senate career to his friend, former Governor Charlie Crist, who chose him to succeed Mel Martinez in Washington (much to the consternation of Congressman Bill  Young), famously endorsed his opponent, Marco Rubio, in the Senate race last year after Crist left the GOP and ran an an indie (and ultimately got slaughtered).

When asked about that yesterday, LeMieux, sounding like he served in Washington longer than 16 months, spun his betrayal of the former Governor as an act of political courage, saying:

“When the governor left the party, the day after, I supported Marco Rubio for the Senate,” LeMieux said. “It was not an easy thing to do, personally. But I had to stand by my convictions. I think it proves that even when times are tough, I’m willing to do what’s right and make a principle-base decision.

Oh, another tidbit of the Quinnipiac survey: Among independents, the biggest growing voting bloc in Florida politics, Nelson has a 44%-22% level of support.

The poll also shows President Obama is viewed slightly more negatively than positively here in Florida, with 47% approving of his job performance, 49% disapproving.

By a 45-21 percent split, registered voters approve of Nelson’s job performance, and 43 percent say he deserves re-election, the poll shows. Less than a third of the electorate want someone else.

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