By Jim Ellis
June 20, 2019 — Quinnipiac University surveyed the Florida electorate (June 12-17; 1,279 registered Florida voters, 417 self-identified Democrats) and found former Vice President Joe Biden opening a substantial lead over Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) there. He also posts a healthy advantage against President Trump in a hypothetical general election pairing in what is always a critical voting domain.
The Q-Poll numbers find Biden scoring a 41-14-12 percent advantage over Sens. Sanders and Warren, respectively, with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) trailing in single-digits with eight and six percent, sequentially.
As Nate Silver, founder of the 538 statistical website, said in an interview this week that looking at general election polling this early is basically a futile exercise. It does, however, provide us a clue into candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. In the general election Q-Poll pairing, Biden records a 50-41 percent advantage over President Trump in Florida. This poll, of course, was taken before Trump’s Florida rally Tuesday night in which he kicked off his 2020 campaign.
Silver’s spoken sentiments are true because, among other reasons, so much time remains between now and the 2020 Nov. 3 election, and so many unknown events will occur that could alter the final outcome. Additionally, the campaign will drastically change when both parties have nominees and voters begin paying serious attention to the race.
Therefore, he is correct in saying it is more salient to look at the primary numbers, which are more relevant in state races that will be decided next February and March. Yet, a general election data point that consistently appears in polls and does so again in this particular survey does merit attention.
According to the Quinnipiac data, 54 percent of the respondents describe themselves as being better off financially than three years ago as compared to 23 percent who say the opposite. As has been the consistent pattern, President Trump gets little credit for the economic turnaround that has occurred during his tenure. In this poll, his overall job approval is 44:51 percent positive to negative.
Since this trend is evident nationally and appears in virtually every state that has been tested, it is clear that the Trump campaign will need to reverse such a perception before Election Day. Also, this particular Florida data finds Independents breaking toward Biden by a whopping 54-32 percent margin. Failing to turn around this type of ratio, particularly in Florida, will prove deadly to the Trump campaign. On the good news side for the president, only 32 percent of the state polling sample say that impeachment proceedings against him should be filed as opposed to 62 percent who say such filing should not occur.
Turning back to the Democratic primary, Florida is in the unique position of being the biggest early-voting state (219 first ballot delegates ranking fourth within the Democratic framework; March 17 primary) where a home state candidate is not present. Therefore, this is the only Top Five early voting state where the candidates see an open playing field for a potential big delegate swing.
As we have mentioned in previous articles, March 17 is a key date. By that day, 70 percent of the first ballot delegate votes will be locked as all 57 voting entities force their delegates to vote in proportion with the state primary or caucus count on at least the first roll call. Florida joins Illinois and Arizona in hosting its primary on March 17, thus giving it even more prominence because there are not many competing primaries that day. This contrasts with March 3, when 15 states and two territories will vote, including California and Texas, and March 10, when electorates in eight domains will cast their ballots.
Because of its positioning within the Democratic field of states and territories, Florida again holds a position of political prominence. The Sunshine State data should be watched closely as a trend-setter and potential harbinger to determining who will win the Democratic nomination.