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Mr. Rubio, a “tea party” favorite, was favored in the three-way contest by 46 percent of 1,151 voters surveyed by Quinnipiac University between Sept. 23 and 28. The poll was Quinnipiac’s first limited to likely voters for the Nov. 2 general election and claimed a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Mr. Crist, who left the GOP in April to run for the Senate without party affiliation, was favored by 33 percent and Mr. Meek was preferred by 18 percent in the three-way race.

A former state House speaker, Mr. Rubio built his lead with backing from 83 percent of likely Republican voters while nearly splitting the independent vote with Mr. Crist. Meanwhile, the survey shows Mr. Crist and Mr. Meek splitting among the Democrats.

SANCTIONS

U.S. hits energy firm with sanctions

The Obama administration on Thursday slapped sanctions on a Swiss-based Iranian company involved in Iran’s oil and gas sector and claimed success in persuading several European energy firms to divest from the country.

The move comes as Washington steps up pressure on Iran to prove its nuclear program is peaceful and comes a day after it broadened its efforts to push reform in the Islamic republic by imposing financial and travel sanctions on eight senior Iranian officials accused of serious human rights abuses after last year’s disputed presidential elections.

In the latest step, the State Department placed the Naftiran Intertrade Co., a subsidiary of Iran’s national oil company, on a financial blacklist. At the same time, it spared four large European multinationals - Total of France, Statoil of Norway, ENI of Italy and Royal Dutch Shell of Britain and the Netherlands - from the penalties because of their pledges to stop investing in Iran’s energy sector.