Opposing Florida Gubernatorial
Candidates Both Ahead by 17 Points …

By Jim Ellis

Florida state Agriculture Commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam (left) -- ahead by 17 percent; US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) leading by 17 percent

Florida state Agriculture Commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam (left) — ahead by 17 percent according to polling; US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) — also ahead by 17 percent

July 10, 2018 — It’s not particularly unusual to find a political race where different pollsters see separate leaders in an election contest, but the open Florida Republican primary governor’s campaign may be setting a new standard.

As Ryan Nichol of the Florida Politics Blog reports, a new Remington Research poll (July 2-5; 2,900 likely Florida Republican primary voters via automated response) finds US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) leading state Agriculture Commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam 43-26 percent in the upcoming open Aug. 28 Republican primary.

What’s unusual about this survey conducted for the Tenth Amendment Project, a group supporting DeSantis, is that the result provides the opposite margin when compared to two other recent independent news organization political polls that both project Putnam to be substantially ahead — one of which by the same 17-point spread that Remington sees for DeSantis. Another poll posts the Putnam advantage at 15 percentage points.

Marist College, conducting their poll for NBC News (June 17-21; 1,083 Florida adults, 947 registered Florida voters, 326 likely Florida Republican primary voters, 344 likely Florida Democratic primary voters via live telephone interviews), found Putnam’s edge to be 38-21 percent, which is similar to the Fox News survey (Anderson Roberts Research [D] and Shaw & Company Research [R]; June 15-19; 901 likely Florida Republican primary voters via live telephone interview) that forecast Putnam leading 32-17 percent.

At the time, the Marist and Fox surveys detected a change in the race with Commissioner Putnam breaking through to a substantial lead when all previous polling was finding a tight contest between he and Rep. DeSantis. Now we see Remington confirming a break in the race, but with the other candidate streaming out to a similar-sized lead in the opposite direction.

Several factors are present that, when combined, could account for the lead change; but they are likely not enough to explain such a huge discrepancy.

First, the polls were conducted during two different periods. Marist and Fox went into the field in mid-June, while Remington is more recent in early July. Therefore, enough time exists in the two-week difference to produce a new leader. But, such a large change (a net 34-point swing) occurring in a relatively short time frame is unusual, to say the least.

Second, on June 22, after Fox and Marist completed their surveys but before Remington did so, President Trump issued an endorsement of Rep. DeSantis. This certainly could alter the campaign’s flow since Trump’s support has proven to move Republican primary voters, but is alone unlikely to be the sole reason for such an extreme change. This is especially true since the president’s late June tweet for DeSantis was actually a reiteration of a previous endorsement, and not the first time that Trump had voiced support for the Atlantic Coast congressman.

Third, the two candidates participated in a statewide-televised debate on June 28 — again after Marist and Fox but before Remington went into the field — which also could account for some change. As follow-up news reports mentioned, the debate contestants largely argued over supporting President Trump and immigration policy rather than more specific Florida state issues.

Finally, let’s look at methodology as a further explanation. Remington Research used an automated system, which tends to be less accurate than the live phoner data accumulation methods that Fox and Marist employed, but their survey sample of 2,900 could well compensate for a greater inaccuracy level.

On the other hand, the Marist poll is woefully short on respondents, just 326 individuals within the entire state of Florida, but the Fox poll comes through with a more representative 901-sample and arrives at virtually the same result during the same time segment. Additionally, to further support the Marist accuracy factor, its result on the Democratic side (344 sample size) of the same campaign that finds Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leading former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), 21-19 percent, is consistent with other previously released statewide polls.

The Florida governor’s race is one of the most interesting on the late primary card, and the prime-time campaigning period is just now beginning. The open Florida governor’s campaign carries national significance because of the state’s major national redistricting status, and the chief executive elected later this year will hold veto power of the new congressional and state legislature maps when they are drawn after the 2020 national census is completed.

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