updated 10/11/2006 11:31:43 AM ET 2006-10-11T15:31:43

U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris is trailing by a wide margin in her bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, according to a poll issued Wednesday.

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Nelson was favored by 61 percent compared to 33 percent who preferred Harris, who party leaders had tried to force out of the race, and 6 percent were undecided. The results were gathered in a random telephone sampling of 783 likely voters, conducted Oct. 3-8 by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

In a larger sampling of 968 registered voters, Nelson was favored by 56 percent to Harris's 31 percent with 11 percent undecided. A similar poll taken in July found Nelson with 61 percent to 24 percent who liked Harris.

Harris-Bush connection
As Florida's secretary of state in 2000, Harris oversaw the recount that gave George W. Bush the White House and quickly won star status among the GOP faithful. 2006 key races

However, state GOP leaders, who talked Harris out of a Senate bid in 2004, tried again to keep her from challenging Nelson, fearing she would not only lose but spur a large Democratic turnout that would damage the entire Republican ticket. She easily won the Sept. 5 primary.

The poll also found that 59 percent of Floridians disapprove of the job President Bush is doing compared to 37 percent who support his handling of the job. Fifty-five percent believe the country is losing the war in Iraq and 44 percent say the U.S. is losing the battle against terrorism.

The survey of likely voters carried a margin of error or plus or minus 3.5 percentage points while the larger sampling of registered voters was plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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