Can Rick Scott give Republicans a key takeaway in the US Senate? A new poll of likely voters [see update] puts Governor Rick Scott up by a little under two points over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson among a very large sample of likely voters. It’s still too close to call, but Scott certainly will see this as good news if not momentum:
Florida Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott, who currently serves as the state’s governor, has narrowly pulled ahead of Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson in a new poll released Saturday — the first major survey in two weeks to show Scott leading, and a positive sign for Republicans as they seek to retain control of the Senate.
The results, from St. Pete Polls, give Scott a lead of 49.1 percent to 47.5 percent, within the margin of error, with 3.4 percent undecided.
It’s the first lead for Scott in a couple of weeks, which came from the same pollster. However, the St. Pete Polls series had Nelson up by two in its previous iteration. That matches most of the polling in this race, which has had it within the margin of error in every poll over the last two weeks.
The news isn’t nearly as good for the GOP nominee to replace Scott. Ron DeSantis trails outside the margin of error in the same survey:
Conversely, the same group of likely voters surveyed by St. Pete Polls preferred Democrat Andrew Gillum to Republican Ron DeSantis in the state’s gubernatorial contest to replace the term-limited Scott, 48.4 percent to 43.6 percent, with 3.7 percent undecided. Every other major recent poll tracked by RealClearPolitics (RCP) also shows DeSantis trailing by small margins.
The split figures encapsulated the problem facing the GOP in the House and several governor’s mansions across the country with just two days until the Nov. 6 elections: Given that so many races in Republican-leaning areas are effectively toss-ups, an unusually high number would have to break right at the last minute for the GOP to have a good day on Tuesday.
One point seems odd. According to the polls, both Nelson and Gillum lead among those who have already voted, 50.9/47.4 and 52.3/45.1 respectively. However, according to the Tampa Bay Times, the GOP barely edged Democrats in early voting, 40.8/40.2. Unless independents are breaking hard to Democrats in early voting, the result from at least Gillum’s race seems pretty large for this kind of even-up early voting performance. The internals in the St. Pete Polls show independents breaking for Gillum, but only barely at 47.1/45.3. It also shows a high level of crossovers, with Gillum taking 18.2% of Republican votes and DeSantis winning 14.5% of Democrats. That seems highly unlikely in such a polarized election, and it calls into question whether St. Pete Polls might be underestimating DeSantis.
In the Scott/Nelson race, independents split almost exactly, with Scott edging Nelson 48/47.5. This race also shows a high level of crossovers — Scott gets 18.4% of Democrats while Nelson wins 17.8%. That’s still tough to swallow, but even if one does, it still doesn’t account for the relatively big gaps in the early vote. Either this poll is underestimating the two Republicans, or it’s simply so far off as to be worthless.
On top of that, as I wrote this post, two new polls popped up showing Nelson and Gillum pulling ahead. Quinnipiac shows Nelson up seven, 51/44, and Gillum up 50/43. The difference in this poll is that both Nelson and Gillum win big among independents, by thirteen points in both races. That would negate the tie in the early vote, certainly.
NBC, meanwhile, has both within the margin of error but leaning Democrat:
At the top of the ticket, Democrat Andrew Gillum is up among likely voters against Republican Ron DeSantis, 50 percent to 46 percent, within the poll’s margin of error. That’s a similar margin to the five-point lead NBC News and Marist found in September, when Gillum led 48 percent to 43 percent. …
Nelson leads Scott 50 percent to 46 percent among likely voters. Among the larger pool of all registered voters, Nelson leads 50 percent to 45 percent. In September, Nelson got 48 percent support to Scott’s 45 percent among likely voters.
The narrower numbers don’t make sense here, though, because the NBC poll shows both Gillum and Nelson winning even larger shares of independents — 20 points and 18 points, respectively. Did these gaps just show up? And what happened in early voting if they did, which may well account for the largest part of the midterm voting?
Perhaps Hurricane Michael turned polling into a mess in Florida. Normally I’d lean toward the local pollsters, but all three of these have problems.
Update: The listing on RCP confused me between two different iterations of the St. Pete Polls. The latest actually shows Nelson in the lead by 3.7% — and still with the wide gap on early voting, though, which still makes little sense. However, the thrust of all the closing polls shows a narrow Democratic victory. I apologize for my error.