Data: Bush, Rubio in Florida

June 12, 2015 — A new poll of Florida Republicans gives us an early perspective on the largest Republican Winner-Take-All state (99 delegates) and it’s two favorite sons, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio. The results represent yet a further warning sign for Bush, and could be a prelude for the future.

The St. Leo University Polling Institute from Pasco County went into the field during the May 25-31 period and interviewed 535 Florida adults, 410 of who are judged as likely voters. The Republican and Democratic cell segments are extremely small, however. Only 146 respondents are likely GOP primary voters and 166 reside in the latter political party group. This creates a major error factor in relation to survey conclusions about each party’s nominating situation.

From what information is available, St. Leo’s finds that former Gov. Bush holds a 30-24 percent lead over Sen. Rubio with all other GOP candidates well below the 10 percent threshold.

But the mere six-point lead for the state’s former two-term chief executive hardly tells the full story. In March, the Institute found Bush ahead of Rubio 31-16 percent. Therefore, the senator has gained a net nine points in what could well turn into a two-candidate state race.

Possibly the most interesting number comes from the pollsters separating Bush and Rubio into a hypothetical two-candidate ballot test. Remembering that the Republican cell number is extremely low, it is Sen. Rubio who actually leads in this configuration, 48-40 percent. Though these figures should be considered unreliable, they do remind us that Bush’s effort is starting slowly and displaying many trouble signs.

But the single pairing of Bush and Rubio may be the prophetic aspect about this poll. Because both men hail from the state, and each is a strong national contender, other candidates may decide to bypass the primary. At first glance, it appears strange that competitive candidates would not participate in what will likely be the country’s largest Winner-Take-All nominating event, but such a move may well be a smart decision.

Recently, the Florida legislature and governor enacted a plan that schedules the Florida primary for March 15 and, for the Republican side, adopted the Winner-Take-All format to apportion the state’s 99-member Republican National Convention contingent. Thus, Florida becomes quite a prize.

Then, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker began to upset the Florida apple cart. The governor, undeniably one of the top-tier candidates, stated on national television that he is considering skipping the Sunshine State vote because the chance of overcoming both Rubio and Bush is highly unlikely. He would be in the position of spending millions of dollars in the Florida primary and almost assuredly coming away with no delegates.

Certainly Walker is not alone, and all of the other candidates will soon decide whether to seriously compete in this largest of Winner-Take-All primaries. Purely from a financial investment standpoint, entering Florida makes little sense for anyone but Bush or Rubio. The fact that the St. Leo poll finds all other candidates to be in single digits lends further credence to what is likely the coming exodus from this important state.

While the individual St. Leo poll results cannot be taken as statistically significant, the isolation of Bush and Rubio into a two-way contest does add important support for what may well become a practical reality.

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