Florida men: Polls show toss-ups in Senate, gubernatorial races

After ten weeks of general election campaigning and a massive hurricane hit, the two key races in Florida still comes down to late deciders. Two polls covering both races show the Senate race between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott in a virtual dead heat, with Democrat Andrew Gillum taking a slight edge over Ron DeSantis for the open gubernatorial seat. The UNF poll gives Gillum his largest margin in the last two weeks:

The Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida has a new poll of likely voters that reveals Andrew Gillum in the lead for the upcoming gubernatorial election in Florida, with Ron DeSantis close behind and Sen. Bill Nelson with a slight lead over Gov. Rick Scott in the upcoming Senate election for the state of Florida. The survey also shows that a supermajority of respondents support restoring the voting rights of individuals with felony convictions after they have served their sentences.

The poll, comprised of likely Florida voters, shows that 49 percent of respondents plan to vote for Gillum, the Democratic candidate in the upcoming election for Florida governor, while 43 percent plan to vote for the Republican candidate, DeSantis. …

Regarding the upcoming U.S. Senate race, when asked who they would vote for if the election were held today, 47 percent of likely voters indicated they would vote for Nelson, the Democratic candidate, 46 percent would vote for Scott, the Republican and 7 percent didn’t know. Of Democratic likely voters, 81 percent claim they will vote for Nelson, while 9 percent for Scott; 7 percent don’t know. Among Republican respondents, 10 percent say they will vote for Nelson, 86 percent for Scott and 5 percent don’t know.

A new poll from USA Today/Suffolk today puts the gubernatorial race much closer, however. Gillum only leads 45.0/44.2, a virtual dead heat, with 7.8% undecided. Nelson leads Scott in this poll by a similar margin, 44.6/43.2, with 10.2% undecided. The UNF poll seems to line up better than USAT/Suffolk does with a NYT/Siena poll released yesterday which put Nelson up four and Gillum up five. However, a CBS poll released over the weekend put Scott up one and the gubernatorial race into a dead heat.

The races look like a muddle for pollsters, in other words, and largely in the hands of undecideds. One key difference between the two polls is how it rates Donald Trump’s approval in the state. In the UNF survey, Trump’s underwater at 45/51, but the USAT/Suffolk poll puts Trump barely above water, 46.4/45.8. That poll drills down more into other approval ratings; Scott gets a 46/43.2 rating, and 52% say Florida is heading in the right direction. The sample is evenly split between those who want to support or block Trump’s agenda with their midterm votes, 39.2/39.0. However, only 32.2% of respondents want the House to consider impeaching Trump in the next session of Congress.

Obviously, if USAT/Suffolk comes closer to reality with Trump’s approval rating, then the two Republicans are in better shape. There are other reasons to think that the polls might be underestimating their support as well. In the late August primaries, Republicans outperformed Democrats in the gubernatorial races by 6.7%, with 100,000 more Republicans coming to the polls despite the Democratic race being much more competitive. Also, the GOP is leading in early voting through the weekend — narrowly but still there thanks to mail-in voting. But that might not be enough:

With just one week until Election Day, Republicans have cast 42 percent of the votes, 2 percentage points higher than registered Democrats.

A strong weekend gave Democrats the edge in in-person early voting, but Republicans hold the advantage in mail-in voting.

As expected, independent voters will likely be the deciders. About 17 percent of ballots cast so far have been by independent, or no party affiliation, voters.

The UNF poll shows strong leads for both Democrats among unaffiliated voters — Gillum by 25 points and Nelson by 17. That sounds odd, though, considering the close race overall and an even split in both polls’ samples between Republicans and Democrats. The final push from both parties will likely settle this race, which also might not be great news for the GOP, as midterms usually end up breaking against the party in power.

Republicans have some significant pickup opportunities for the Senate. This might end up being a long shot among them, unless Scott can turn on the afterburners soon.