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New poll finds picking Romney would help McCain in Florida

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TALLAHASSEE — Joe Biden's barely a blip. Mitt Romney's more of a hit. Gov. Charlie Crist should stay where he is. And Joe Lieberman should go away.

That's all according to Mason-Dixon Polling & Research's latest Florida voter survey gauging the vice presidential picks and possibilities in the presidential race.

The poll shows the race is almost dead-even: 45 percent favor Barack Obama and 44 percent favor Republican John McCain.

Obama's decision to pick Delaware Sen. Biden on Saturday as a running mate doesn't seem to have done much for the ticket. The poll shows that those who said Biden would make them either more or less inclined to vote Democrat almost canceled each other out, while 64 percent of likely voters said the pick made no difference.

Not so for Romney.

About 32 percent of respondents said they'd favor McCain if he picked Romney. That's double the number of those who said they'd be less inclined to back the ticket. Only 17 percent said they wanted Crist on the ticket.

''People like Charlie Crist where he is, in the governor's mansion. They know Romney, who campaigned hard in this state,'' said Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker. ``Romney looks like he gives McCain more of an edge than Biden gives Obama.''

But Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman looks toxic to the ticket. Nearly twice as many people said they'd be less likely to vote for McCain if the former Democrat were on the ticket. Many Democrats see the former vice presidential candidate of 2000 as a turncoat. Conservative Republicans can't stand his abortion-rights record.

''Lieberman's luster has faded,'' Coker said.

McCain will probably make his pick Friday. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin barely registered responses in the poll, which didn't include the name of former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

The poll shows that South Florida favors Obama the most, where he leads 53-37 — almost the reverse of the numbers favoring McCain in North Florida. McCain also has a slight lead in the crucial Central Florida I-4 corridor, which is often the decider of the statewide elections.

The virtual tie in the race, though, is doubly good news for Obama. It should make McCain nervous because he needs to win Florida more than the Democrat due to the vagaries of the election map. And recent polls have shown Obama was slipping after making up major ground in Florida by blitzing the state with more than $7 million in ads over two months.

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