In one of the 10 states won by Donald J. Trump in 2016, where a Democratic senator is up for reelection, Florida’s Sen. C. William Nelson II leads Republican Gov. Richard L. Scott with 44 percent of respondents to Scott’s 39 percent and 17 percent were undecided, according to the Big League-Gravis poll of 5,778 registered Florida voters conducted between Dec. 19 through Dec. 24.
“Back around the same point in 2013 in his reelection campaign, we had a poll that had Rick Scott losing to Charlie Crist, 46 percent to 36 percent, but he pulled it out,” said Doug Kaplan, the managing partner of Gravis Marketing, the Florida-based company that executed the poll. The poll carries a 1.3 percent margin of error.
Rep. Charles J. Crist Jr. (D.-Fla.) was then running as a newly former Republican, who Scott succeeded in the governor’s office. In the 2014 general election, Scott beat Crist with 48 percent to Crist’s 47 percent. Scott has not formally announced that he is running for Senate in 2018.
Kaplan said both Nelson and Scott have strong support from their own parties. “Nelson has the support of 78 percent of Democrats and Scott has the support of 74 percent of Republicans, but among Independents, Nelson has the real advantage with 45 percent of them supporting Nelson and 31 percent supporting the governor.”
Because Democratic Senate candidates had such a successful 2012, of the 33 Senate seats up in 2018, the Democrats are defending 24 seats, in addition to the seats held by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I.-Vt.) and Sen. Angus S. King Jr. (I.-Maine), two Independents, who caucus with the Democrats. It is also important to note that not only are there 10 Democratic Senate seats from states won by Trump up in 2018, Maine makes it 11, if you count the state’s 2nd Congressional District won by the New York City developer.
Maine’s two districts award their electoral votes independent of the statewide total–and Trump collected more than 42,000 more votes than W. Mitt Romney garnered in 2012, and he lost the state to Hillary R. Clinton by less than 20,000 votes.
With the Democrats defending so many seats, Florida looks like a prime opportunity to for the GOP to pick up a seat. The Republicans now hold a 51-49 advantage in the Senate and this cycle could be their last chance to reach 60 for another six years, because of their own gains in 2014 and holds 2016.
The Republicans have not had 60 or more seats, since the Senate election in 1908, when the GOP held 61 out of 92 seats. The last time the Democrats held 60 or more seats was in the Senate session that ran from 2009 to 2011, which was a temporary combination of 58 Democrats and two Independents. Under current Senate rules, 60 votes are required to end debate and force a vote on all non-budget-related legislation. This means that a minority of 41 senators can extend debate indefinitely, a parliamentary maneuver called the filibuster.
Among Florida women voters, Nelson has the edge over Scott with 45 percent compared Scott’s 35 percent and 20 percent of women are undecided. Among men, Nelson and Scott are tied at 43 percent with 14 percent of men undecided.
Broken down by ethnicity, Nelson has the support of 57 percent of African-Americans, 42 percent of Hispanics and 42 percent of whites. Scott has the support of 16 percent of African-Americans, 40 percent of Hispanics and 44 percent of whites.
The Hispanic category is tricky in Florida as it includes both the Cubans, who tend to be more conservative and Republican and the Puerto Ricans, who tend to be more liberal and Democratic.
Forty-four percent of Florida Catholics favor Scott and 41 percent favor Nelson, while Scott has the support of 57 percent of Evangelicals and 26 percent of Jewish voters. Nelson is the choice of 62 percent of Jewish voters and 23 percent of Evangelical voters.
Forty-two percent of poll participants said they approve of Scott’s job performance as governor and 36 percent said they disapproved, but asked about how he did during the recent hurricane season, 70 percent approved of Scott’s performance and only 15 percent disapproved.
Pressed to approve or disapprove of Scott’s job dealing with nursing homes during Hurricane Irma, 44 percent approved and 30 disapproved with 25 percent uncertain.
The Senate race in Florida could be an interesting gauge of the president’s political strength going into the 2020 election cycle. Trump spends significant time at his home and club at Mar-a-Largo in Palm Beach, but his other properties in the state include, Trump National Golf Course in Jupiter, Trump International Golf Club in Palm Beach and Trump National Doral in Miami.
Fifty-three percent said they have an unfavorable opinion of the president in the poll and 39 percent said they have a favorable opinion.
The survey was conducted using interactive voice responses and an online panel of cell phone users. The results were weighted to match a proprietary turnout model.
Read the complete poll here:
Big League-Gravis Dec. 19-Dec. 24 Florida poll
Read the poll’s crosstabs here:
Crosstabs for Big League-Gravis Dec. 19-Dec. 24 Florida poll