Bill Nelson (D-inc): 47 (46)The Florida Senate race went through a period, after the entry of Rep. Connie Mack IV last fall, where it was looking like it'd go down to the wire. Mack's decision to finally get in the race gave the Republicans a top fundraising talent and a well-known brand (even if it's thanks to sharing a name with his ex-senator dad ... and his baseball legend great-grandfather). The polls immediately in the wake of his entry usually showed a dead heat (with the notable exception of PPP's previous sample of the race, in November).
Connie Mack IV (R): 37 (35)
Undecided: 17 (19)
Bill Nelson (D-inc): 48 (47)
George LeMieux (R): 34 (32)
Undecided: 18 (20)
Bill Nelson (D-inc): 47 (47)
Mike McCalister (R): 35 (32)
Undecided: 19 (21)
Something funny has happened along the way, though: Mack has only seemed to lose traction rather than gain more of it. He may have taken some serious damage from local media accounts of his pre-Congress hard-partying antics (adeptly exploited in ads from his primary rival, ex-Sen. George LeMieux, who compared him to Charlie Sheen). But there seems to be a more general problem, of Mack simply coming across like a lazy campaigner feeling entitled to the seat because of family history (dubbed a sense of "kiss the ring" by a nameless Republican consultant), not doing anything to appeal to either swing voters or the tea-drinking base. That meme seems to have hit critical mass in the last few days, bursting into the Beltway press (like the Washington Post on Tuesday) and boosting long-bubbling rumors of another last-minute entrant to the GOP field—most notably state CFO Jeff Atwater—out of the back rooms.
After all that, PPP's newest poll of the race finds Mack not looking terribly competitive against two-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. Nelson's approval ratings (36/32) aren't overwhelming, but Mack (with 20/27 favorables) doesn't offer a viable alternative; he is still down double-digits, trailing Nelson by 10 this time. That's hardly changed from PPP's 11 point lead for Nelson in November; Quinnipiac, though, has polled the race more frequently, and they've seen the race swing from a dead heat in fall to an 8-point lead for Nelson in their most recent sample from late March.
When we at Daily Kos Elections were initially handicapping the Senate field, "Tossup" seemed appropriate given Mack's out-of-the-gate momentum. However, between multiple credible pollsters giving Nelson a solid lead and the wheels seeming to publicly come off the Mack campaign, we feel confident in upgrading this race to "Lean Democratic."