(The below Florida Senate polls will be updated weekly)
Barring any major surprises, incumbent GOP incumbent senator Marco Rubio, 51, will face Democratic Rep. Val Demings, 65, formerly chief of the Orlando Police Department, in November’s general election.
On paper, Demings is the dream candidate. Can she defeat one of the Senate’s most outspoken members in Rubio?
Let’s not forget, just four years ago Ron DeSantis, now the current governor, won a nailbiter against Andrew Gillum, 49.6 to 49.2 percent. Also, in 2018, Republican Rick Scott edged Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson by just 0.07 percent in a race for Florida’s other Senate seat.
Those metrics suggest Demings has a fine chance to win. However, more recent data says something else.
In the 2020 United States presidential election, Republican Donald Trump carried the state by a solid 3.4 percent despite Florida’s toss-up status. Given Trump won there in a pseudo-anti-Republican climate, Demings will have an uphill battle now that the national political environment has turned in favor of Republicans and against Democrats.
Moreover, Republican governor Ron DeSantis, the most discussed governor in the country, maintains an approval rating in the mid-50s while his disapproval rating has dropped to about 40 percent. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s approval is almost as low as Trump’s at this time in the latter’s presidency.
If Florida leaned blue, a la Virginia, Demings would still be a live dog; But the Sunshine State has a solid Republican tilt. In fact, some experts dismiss Florida’s purple label and consider the state full-on red.
Without dramatic changes in the political climate or Rubio’s reputation, Demings, who routinely notes her modest upbringing as a “Black girl who grew up poor in the South,” will remain a big underdog in the Florida Senate race.
Demings vs Rubio FL Senate Polls
|Poll||Date||Rubio (R)||Demings (D)||Spread|
|Average||8/4 – 5/21||49.0||40.0||Rubio +10.0|
|Phillips Academy||May 7-9||34||36||Demings +2|
|Saint Leo University||Feb 28-Mar 12||45||27||Rubio + 18|
|University of North Florida||Feb 8-20||46||34||Rubio +12|
|Univ. of North Florida||2/7 – 2/20||46||34||Rubio +12|
|Mason-Dixon||2/7 – 2/10||49||42||Rubio +7|
|USA Today/Suffolk||1/26 – 1/29||49||41||Rubio +8|
|St. Pete Polls||11/18 – 11/19||51||44||Rubio +7|
|Susquehanna||8/4 – 8/10||50||39||Rubio +11|
Demings’ followers are optimistic because the former police chief won the latest poll but that pollster’s reputation pales in comparison to the others, sans Saint Leo University and the University of North Florida.
What should be most concerning for Democrats is Rubio’s double-digit lead in four polls, including his 11-point lead in Susquehanna’s survey in August 2021 when public sentiment for Biden and Democrats hadn’t quite tanked.
Val Demings is a very quality candidate and I hope she runs again if she fails to win in November. Unfortunately, she’s likely a victim of circumstances beyond her control this time around.
If I were her, I’d focus on scoring points with independents and moderates and better position myself for a subsequent run.
By 2024, she could very well be the favorite for Florida’s other Senate seat currently held by Rick Scott.
Democrats should limit their funding efforts for Rubio vs Demings and look to shift its resources into races that are more winnable.