Politico: Will a Biden blowout in Florida mean Trump's in trouble at home?

One has little to do with the other, but that’s not to say that it’s not possible, either. A new poll out from the University of North Florida shows Joe Biden thumping Bernie Sanders in the lead-up to Tuesday’s primary in the Sunshine State. Biden has a “staggering” 44-point lead, Politico notes, but misses some of the other context around those numbers in extrapolating them to general-election momentum:

Biden is lapping Sanders in voter support, with support from 66 percent of likely Democratic primary voters to 22 percent for Sanders, according to a University of North Florida poll taken March 5-10.

The findings land just after Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, on Wednesday vowed to stay in the presidential race despite taking a multi-state beatdown in the past two weeks. Biden has 864 delegates to Sanders’ 710, and Florida has 219 grabs. Voters there go to the polls March 17. …

Three other states also will vote on March 17: Illinois, Ohio and Arizona. In Florida, more than 728,000 Democrats already have cast ballots.

Biden hopes to sweep all four states, but Florida is more than a big delegate prize. A Biden blowout in the battleground state would send a warning to President Donald Trump in his newly adopted home state, which Trump needs to carry to win a second term.

The data from UNF is real enough. Biden wins 66% of 1,339 likely voters surveyed, while Sanders only gets 22%. That almost exactly matches a Florida Atlantic University poll taken at the same time (Biden 61/25), and the most recent St. Pete Polls tracking results (61/12) from last week.

What this doesn’t note is that Sanders has never polled well in Florida. In fact, Sanders is actually polling a bit better now than he ever has, likely due to the withdrawal of other candidates from the race. Before this past week, Sanders’ best result in any Florida poll tracked by RealClearPolitics was 16%, and that was in early January when Biden’s numbers were dropping nationally. Even in that poll, though, Biden got 42% in a crowded field, and he has never scored lower than 26%. Except for two St. Pete tracking polls in which Bloomberg narrowly led in February, Biden has topped every poll in the RCP aggregation — and most of them by double digits.

This, then, isn’t Joementum — it’s basically the result of the race consolidating down to two options, one of which has never been popular at all in the state. (Tulsi Gabbard is also still in the race but polling between 1-3%.) This has been shaping up as a blowout all along, which has little to do with Biden’s general-election standing in the state. In fact, the same FAU poll that gave Biden a 61/25 advantage over Sanders also put him two points behind Donald Trump, 49/51. That itself tends to refute Politico’s theory of a primary blowout having any relation to the general election.

Furthermore, this UNF/Public Opinion Research Lab data points out some significant weaknesses in Biden’s standing with Democrats. As in other states, Biden’s not catching the imagination of younger voters that would be most inclined to impact Trump’s ability to defend his 2016 Florida win:

Among younger voters (18 to 24-year-olds), Sanders garnered 77% of the vote, while Biden shows greater popularity with the 65+ crowd at 78%. Middle age-range voters between 35 and 44 years of age seem more split, with 45% intending to vote for Biden and 40% for Sanders. Overall, 54% of respondents had definitely decided who they would vote for in the primary, with 16% leaning towards someone and 29% still trying to decide.

“Sanders does have a lot of support among young people; however, there are just not enough voters in that demographic to propel him to a victory in Florida,” noted Binder.

What seems very clear is that Biden will win Florida whether he does badly in the Sunday night debate or not. Too many people have already voted in Florida to reverse a 44-point gap on Election Day. Far from clear, however, is what kind of candidate Biden can be in a general election fight against a candidate that will go after him 24/7 for the next eight months, in Florida and everywhere else. This poll says nothing about that question.

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