A recent poll of 2,000 Florida voters found that while Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum is beating Republican Ron DeSantis by a comfortable margin, the U.S. Senate race is much closer.
The poll, which was jointly conducted by Reuters, Ipsos, and the University of Virginia. In the poll of 2,015 Florida adults, 50 percent said they would vote for Gillum in November, and 44 percent said they would cast their ballot for DeSantis. The remaining respondents were undecided.
The results are notable given that both Gillum and DeSantis are seen as “base” candidates who represent the leftmost and rightmost factions of their respective parties. The six-point difference between the two candidates, which is outside the four-point “credibility margin,” shows that even though Gillum is an advocate of openly progressive positions like Medicare for All, a living wage, and repealing the Stand Your Ground law in Florida, he’s still winning enough approval to top DeSantis — at least among this sample of Florida voters.
Florida’s senate race, however, is far more hotly contested, with two-term Governor Rick Scott (R) leading Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) by just one point, 46-45. Gov. Scott is a staunch conservative who has had President Trump stump for him on the campaign trail. Sen. Nelson, for his part, is a centrist Democrat who has not signed on as a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vermont) Medicare for All bill. Nelson has also received a civil rights score of just 60 percent from the American Civil Liberties Union in the 115th Congress (which began in 2017), indicating a mixed civil rights voting record.
As Grit Post reported in March, Nelson is one of the health insurance industry’s favorite Senate Democrats. According to the latest campaign finance records, Nelson has received nearly $30,000 from the four largest health insurance companies (Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, and UnitedHealth Group) in the current campaign cycle. And since his Congressional career began in 1999, Nelson has received more than $1.1 million from the insurance industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Sen. Nelson is seen as one of the more centrist members of the Democratic caucus. He voted to confirm 12 of President Trump’s initial cabinet members in 2017, including more controversial picks like Ryan Zinke at the Department of the Interior, and Linda McMahon at the Small Business Administration. He also voted to confirm three of Trump’s most recent cabinet appointments — Robert Wilkie as VA Secretary, Gina Haspel as CIA Director, and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State (despite voting against Pompeo as CIA Director in 2017).
This polling data flies in the face of the conventional beltway wisdom that, in order for Democrats to make gains in the Deep South (like Florida), they have to be more centrist. Former President Jimmy Carter said as much in a recent interview, attempting to persuade Democrats to not adopt “very liberal” programs like Medicare for All in order to win more elections. However, this is an incorrect assumption, as a recent Reuters survey of several thousand voters found that 70 percent of Americans — and even 52 percent of Republicans — approved of Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal.
There are less than 50 days until Election Day. If this poll is indicative of how Floridians will vote in November, Gillum could be the state’s first black governor, and Nelson could be out as senator.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.