Earlier this year, the upcoming Florida Senate race was looking close, but potentially settled. Democratic Senator Bill Nelson was hanging on to a four-point lead in a state which is typically split down the middle and he has the power of incumbency on his side. But now, entering the final eight weeks, Republican Governor Rick Scott has closed the gap, ringing up a 49-49 split in the latest Quinnipiac survey. As Politico points out, this is already the most expensive midterm race in the country, which is no surprise given how costly Florida’s many media markets are. And the Sunshine State’s beleaguered voters can only expect to see an even heavier barrage of political advertisements from here to the finish line.
The nation’s most-expensive Senate race is a dead-even tie between Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.
The 49 – 49 percent race shows how Scott has narrowed a 4-point deficit since Quinnipiac last surveyed the race in February, but the results suggest that the three-term Democratic senator has so far weathered a storm of negative ads after Scott and Republican groups outspent Nelson and Democrats on TV ads by $30 million to $12 million as of mid-August.
Since Tuesday’s primary, however, Nelson’s camp has started to narrow the gap with Scott on TV. Democrats have recently placed about $55.4 million total on air in the biggest swing state, compared to $66.3 million from Republicans. TV ad spending is a must in a state as large and as competitive as Florida, which has 10 major media markets and can cost upward of $3 million weekly to advertise. So the cumulative $121 million in ad spending to date is set to grow significantly.
The demographic splits in this poll are interesting and seem to mirror national breakdowns on a number of issues. Rick Scott leads among men 53-45, but Nelson carries the women’s vote by the exact same margin. The Democrat holds an overwhelming lead among black voters, but Governor Scott leads among white voters 55 to 44 and, perhaps most critically in Florida, he’s carrying Hispanic voters 59-39. Given the state’s large and politically active Latino population, that’s a requirement for victory.
Since Democrats are still chattering about taking back the Senate Majority Leader’s office, this is probably the last bit of news they want to hear. The Fix was ranking Nelson’s seat as the 6th most vulnerable back in July and it’s probably moved up in the rankings since then. Keep in mind that Democrats need to flip a few Senate seats while hanging on to every one of theirs this November if they want control. But of the ten most vulnerable seats in the upper chamber this year, seven of them are held by Democrats. (Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Florida, West Virginia, Montana, and Wisconsin.) The GOP seats they’re licking their chops over are Jeff Flake’s in Arizona and, of course, Dean Heller in Nevada. Some observers think the Democrats have a chance at Tennessee, but that seems like a longshot at best.
If Rick Scott can pull off a win and flip the Florida seat, I simply don’t see the math for any map that puts Chuck Schumer in Mitch McConnell’s office. Of course, it’s 2018 and it may start raining giraffes any minute now, so who the heck knows?