July 29, 2015 — The Mason-Dixon Polling & Research statisticians surveyed the Florida electorate (July 20-23; 500 likely Florida Republican primary voters; 500 likely Florida Democratic voters) and predictably uncovered some surprising results. Since so many extraordinary political moves continue to unfold in the Sunshine State, the unusual is fast becoming the order of the day.
In the presidential race, results provide an unexpectedly large lead for their former governor, Jeb Bush. The M-D data finds Bush leading the Republican field with 28 percent, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 16 percent, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker posting 13 percent, and Donald Trump dropping to fourth position with only 11 percent allegiance.
The numbers tell us several things. Jeb Bush, in his home state, enjoys his largest lead and Florida is apparently the only place where he has an advantage that exceeds one or two points. In second place is the state’s junior senator, Marco Rubio, but he lags a dozen points behind.
The two combined gives credence to Gov. Walker’s previous observation that it would be very difficult for any candidate to overcome both Bush and Rubio in their home state and, since it takes multi-million dollar expenditures to be competitive there, it is likely not worth the non-Floridian candidates participating in this particular primary. Florida, with its 99 delegates, is the largest Republican Winner-Take-All state so the chances of a candidate other than Bush or Rubio securing even one delegate become slim.
For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton enjoys a 58-17 percent spread over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Vice President Joe Biden was not tested, and ex-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD) was the only other Democratic contender to even register a small level of support (2 percent).
But, it’s in the state’s open Senate race where we see numbers that again defy the conventional wisdom. Just joining the race last week because the court-ordered mid-decade redistricting will adversely affect him, Rep. David Jolly (R-Pinellas County) claims first place in this current primary voters survey.
Though Jolly commands only 16 percent of the respondents’ votes he still commands a six-point margin over Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. In third place is Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Daytona) at 9 percent, followed by soon-to-announce Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Pensacola) who records 8 percent support. It remains to be seen if Jolly can capitalize financially and organizationally from what could well be a short-term blip.
But, the Democratic side is even more interesting. The survey added an individual who may become the newest Senate candidate, freshman Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee). Last week, when it became evident that her congressional district will likely become heavily Republican in the pending redistricting, Rep. Graham began sending signals that she might follow in her father’s footsteps and run statewide. Bob Graham served three terms in the US Senate and two as Florida’s governor, leaving office at the beginning of 2005.
It was widely believed that a Graham candidacy would likely take votes away from Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter), the party leadership’s favorite and a more centrist candidate, because the congresswoman also attempts to position herself in the political center on many issues. Yet, the numbers tell a much different story.
According to the M-D data, liberal Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando), for the third consecutive poll, is leading the battle for the Democratic nomination. This time his margin is only one point, 33-32 percent, with Rep. Graham hovering at the 11 percent level.
Therefore, it appears Graham is pulling more from Grayson than Murphy, which is unexpected. She fares rather poorly in her first test, however, suggesting that the Graham political name is less recognized after an eleven-year absence on the statewide political scene.
The latest Mason-Dixon poll confirms that this campaign could well become the most interesting and exciting Senate race in the entire country.