Tracking Time - A first look at Florida's heavyweight senate race

posted by Brian Mudd -

Tracking Time - A first look at Florida's heavyweight senate race 

Bottom Line: The worst kept secret in Florida was Governor's Scott's pending bid for the US Senate after being term-limited as Florida's Governor. With the formality of the announcement now behind us - we have a heavy-weight senate race ahead of us. Incumbent Senator Bill Nelson's campaign has been running against Governor Scott via campaign emails and materials for many months and while Governor Scott has been tight-lipped publicly - others, most notably President Trump, haven't been regarding Rick's run. But here's the thing as we're sizing up the race... They both have primaries to win first.  

Yes, it's highly likely that Bill Nelson and Rick Scott emerge as their parties' candidates, but they do have to win nominations first (and Rick Scott knows as well as anyone how upsets can happen in primaries). First the Democrat's primary:  

There are three declared candidates right now. Air Force veteran Tamika Lyles, Pastor Randy White and Senator Bill Nelson. It's widely expected that he'll be able to defeat these two challengers that lack political experience, but he will have to win this election first. As for the newest candidate in the race... 

There are four GOP candidates for US Senate. They include... Lateresa Jones (who's previously run for Lt. Gov & US Senate), Real-Estate developer and former Indy Presidential Candidate Howard Knepper, Chiropractor and former US Senate candidate Joseph Smith and Governor Rick Scott. Like Nelson's challengers there aren't any candidates here that are expected to threaten Nelson or Scott but then again who saw Rubio knocking off Govenor Crist or Scott himself defeating Bill McCollum for the nomination.  

That being said, if we're to jump ahead here's the lay of the race right now... 

In an average of current accredited polling Bill Nelson is showing a lead of 46% to 42%. The polling has been pretty consistent so far in this race. Were this to hold it'd come down to how undecided voters break in this race (and if there's a credible third party candidate that could impact the outcome). 

Here's how polling has played out in recent Florida Senate races... 

  • 2016: Rubio: led by 4% - won by 8% 
  • 2012: Nelson: +6% - won by 13% 
  • 2010: Rubio: +17% - won by 19% 
  • 2006: Nelson: +24% - won by 22% 
  • 2004: Castor: +1%, - won by Martinez by 1% 

So, what can we deduct? The best races to evaluate are midterm Senate races. The last time we had one for this race was Nelson's successful re-election bid in 2006 where he won big over Katherine Harris. That's also the most applicable because we had a Republican President and the tide favored Democrats nationally. While Nelson won big he performed 2% worse on Election Day than the polling had indicated. That would suggest that Nelson has an advantage as we start this race but it's likely to be a down-to-the wire type of race. Something Governor Scott is familiar with having won state-wide twice by under 2%.  

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