PPP’s first look at the Florida Senate race this cycle finds that it will start out as a toss up if Marco Rubio does indeed move on to run for President. 8 hypothetical match ups between Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson on the Democratic side, and Jeff Atwater, Pam Bondi, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and Allen West on the Republican side find the Democrats leading by an average of less than a point. All 8 of the match ups find the candidates separated by somewhere in the 2-7 point range.
The best known of the potential candidates we tested is Bondi. 38% of voters view her favorably to 32% with a negative opinion. She fares the strongest of the Republicans in hypothetical match ups, leading Grayson 45/42 and Murphy 45/41. Also leading both of the Democrats, although by a narrow margin, is Atwater. He’s up 41/40 on Grayson and 41/39 on Murphy. Despite having now served in statewide office for 5 years, only 41% of voters are familiar enough with Atwater to have an opinion about him.
Bondi and Atwater might fare the best against the Democrats but the top choice of Republicans to be their candidate next year is Allen West. 38% of primary voters say he would be their top choice to 25% for Bondi, 12% for Atwater, and 8% for Lopez-Cantera. West is particularly boosted by his 45% standing with ‘very conservative’ voters. Although Atwater and Lopez-Cantera have been talked about more as potential candidates, it’s pretty clear they wouldn’t be at the top of the list for Republican voters in the state at this point.
He may be the top choice of the Republican base, but West doesn’t fare quite as well in general election match ups as Bondi and Atwater do. Murphy leads West 41/39, and Grayson leads him 42/39. The weakest Republican though is Lopez-Cantera. He trails Grayson 40/36 and Murphy 41/34. A lot of that probably has to do with Lopez-Cantera being the least well known potential candidate in an already pretty anonymous field- only 28% of voters know enough about him to have formed an opinion.
Murphy and Grayson both have under 50% name recognition. Interestingly they have almost identical favorability ratings- Murphy’s is 21% and Grayson’s is 20%. But Grayson’s negatives are twice as high- 26%- compared to 13% for Murphy- likely owing to his higher profile during his time in Congress. A primary match up between the two starts out basically knotted with Grayson at 22% and Murphy at 21%.
Of course it will be a completely different story if Rubio ends up deciding to seek another term. He would start out ahead of Murphy 48/41 and Grayson at 49/40. Rubio’s 45/40 approval rating doesn’t make him amazingly popular, but in this polarized political climate it’s good enough to make him the early favorite for reelection if he decides that’s the path he wants to go down. Otherwise the Florida Senate contest looks like a toss up.
Full results here