Bill Nelson continues to have approval numbers that leave something to be desired...but he also has at least a 13 point lead over all of his prospective opponents for next year and against the nominal Republican front runner at this point, Mike Haridopolos, he's already hit 50%.
38% of voters approve of the job Nelson's doing to 34% who disapprove. Those numbers sound uninspiring but the main reason for them is that only 55% of Democrats approve of the job he's doing, where you'd usually expect someone to be in the 70-80% range within their own party. Nelson gets 74-80% of the Democratic vote against each of the Republicans we tested him against so this is a classic case where his base might not love him, but they're still going to vote for him.
While Nelson doesn't generate much enthusiasm from within his own party, he's also not much of a turn off to Republicans. An unusually high 21% of them approve of the job he's doing and he gets as much as 19% of the GOP vote in the head to heads against named Republicans.
Most of the time people focus on politicians' approval number when analyzing their reelection chances and if you do that in Nelson's case 38% doesn't look so hot. I think it might be more instructive here though to look at Nelson's disapproval number- is someone who only 34% of voters are unhappy with really going to get tossed out of office? Seems doubtful- certainly didn't happen to any Senators or Governors last year.
The Republicans who poll strongest against Nelson aren't going to run. Connie Mack IV, who announced he wouldn't seek the office after we'd already started the poll, trailed Nelson by 13 points at 47-34. Another incredibly long shot candidate, MSNBC host and former Congressman Joe Scarborough, trails by 13 points as well at 45-32. Among the more plausible candidates former Senator George LeMieux does best but still trails by 15 points at 48-33. Mike Haridopolos and Adam Hasner trail by 16 points at 50-34 and 48-32 respectively, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales does the worst with a 19 point deficit at 47-28.
None of the Republican hopefuls are particularly well known at this point so it's likely they would make up some ground were any of them to become the nominee. Only 35% of voters know enough about Scarborough to have an opinion and that drops to 32% for Haridopolos, 31% for LeMieux, 23% for Hasner, and 17% for Wales.
With double digit leads over all of his prospective opponents and few voters who dislike him, I think there's a pretty good chance Nelson's vulnerability has been strongly overrated.
Full results here