The Florida Seesaw Race

florida-governor-candidates-2018By Jim Ellis

Aug. 16, 2018 — There has been no race in this current election cycle that has featured more swings among the candidates than the open Florida governor’s campaign. What makes it even more interesting is that the wide swings are happening virtually simultaneously in both parties.

Yesterday, several polls were released showing more change in both nomination contests as the Aug. 28 primary date draws nearer. On the Republican side, the new Survey USA poll (Aug. 10-13; 558 likely Florida Republican primary voters) finds the contest again reverting into the toss-up realm after Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) had opened a discernible advantage over agriculture commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam. According to this latest S-USA result, the DeSantis lead is now only 40-38 percent.

A pair of polls was also released on the Democratic side and, as for their Republican counterparts, the nomination race is again getting close. After leading for most of the early campaign, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine fell behind former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), but studies from Survey USA (Aug. 10-13; 631 likely Florida Democratic primary voters) and Schroth, Eldon & Associates (Aug. 11-14; 600 likely Florida Democratic primary voters) see a re-tightening of this contest, too.

According to S-USA, Levine and Graham are tied at 22 percent with billionaire Jeff Greene pulling 16 percent support, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in fourth place with 11 percent preference. The Schroth, Eldon poll sees the race a bit differently. They find Levine re-capturing the lead with 27 percent, followed by Graham at 24 percent, Gillum at 15 percent, and Greene pulling 13 percent support.

The latest surveys are a major departure from the immediate past trends for the candidates in both parties. From early July through the present in the GOP race, 10 polls from 10 different pollsters were released. Nine of the 10 — only a mid-July Clearview Research poll found an opposite result, and that was only by a single point — found Rep. DeSantis leading Commissioner Putnam. Six of the surveys gave DeSantis double-digit leads including a pair that posted him to a 50-30 percent margin. But the aforementioned new Survey USA poll may be a signal that a new trend is emerging, a wave that may be bringing Putnam back into viable contention as the Republican primary campaign enters its final week.

A similar pattern is developing in the Democratic race. Eleven polls were released from mid-July through the present, and eight found Graham leading the contest, with two yielding a tie between she and Levine. The latest one, the aforementioned Schroth, Eldon poll, now projects Levine re-claiming the lead.

The juxtaposition among the candidates within the two parties is like nothing we’ve seen in any other race. From February through June, Levine had a clear advantage among the Democrats, while Putnam was the clear Republican leader. From early July to mid-August, it was Graham and DeSantis with a defined edge in their respective parties. Now, both Levine and Putnam are returning to a competitive standing as the candidates drive for Election Day.

The mirror-like seesaw effect found in both parties suggests that neither gubernatorial nomination is yet clinched, even though it looked like both were headed to a clear result as late as last week.

While there is still more data suggesting that Graham will win the Democratic primary, and Rep. DeSantis the Republican side, there are seemingly no guarantees that each will be able to finish first when the actual votes are tabulated. Therefore, in what is one of the most important governor’s races from a national redistricting perspective, both Florida major party nominations are still undetermined as the last week of campaigning begins.

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