Florida's neck-and-neck governor's race remains a dead heat as the number of undecided voters shrinks. The outcome could pivot on the controversial issue of abortion.
A poll conducted recently for the Miami Herald showed Gov. Bob Martinez (R) and former senator Lawton Chiles (D) in a statistical tie, with Martinez at 47 percent, Chiles at 46 percent and 7 percent undecided. This represented virtually no change since a late September poll, when Martinez, who had come from far back, and Chiles each had 45 percent.
The only movement since then appears to be among a handful of then-undecided voters, who split in almost equal proportions between the two candidates.
But the poll numbers indicate that Chiles stands to make gains among voters who favor abortion rights. In the poll, 57 percent of Martinez's supporters disagree with his antiabortion stance, while only 12 percent of Chiles's supporters disagree with his his pro-abortion views.
In addition, the percentage of voters who hold mistaken views of their candidate's position on abortion is significant -- and that disparity could play an important role if the issue is highlighted in the final weeks of the campaign.
Among Martinez supporters, 26 percent favor abortion rights and incorrectly think Martinez agrees with them. Among Chiles's supporters, only 3 percent of voters are opposed to abortion and incorrectly think Chiles agrees with them.
"What this means is that any time anyone so much as mentions abortion in the next three weeks, it's potentially pure gravy for Chiles," pollster Robert Joffee said.