Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, perhaps the most outspoken state-level politician in the country and a presumptive presidential candidate, leads former governor Charlie Crist in recent polling.
Not surprising… A Republican incumbent governor is likely ahead of a Democrat challenger in a red state. What is surprising are the numbers, considering the state’s partial lean and its governor’s popularity.
Surveys taken by pollsters Susquehanna and Fabrizio/Anzalone over the past 15 days have the country’s most amplified state executive leading by only 4 and 3 points, respectively, and within both pollsters’ margin of error.
Given DeSantis’s stature in the GOP, his incumbent status, and Florida’s conservative tilt he, theoretically, should be ahead by at least 8 or 9 percentage points. After all, he’s a rockstar in the Republican Party and receives more ink than any other governor in the nation.
When we crossover to Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Marco Rubio appears to be maintaining just a 2 to 3 percentage point advantage over challenger Val Demings via the aforementioned pollsters during the same dates.
So, what do the numbers suggest?
Despite inflation and recession concerns, higher-than-usual gas prices, increases in crime, and President Biden’s modest approval ratings, Republicans aren’t moving the needle.
In fact, Democrats appear well-positioned to make gains in the Senate in this year’s midterm elections, less than two months away.
Kennedy vs Romney 1994 (U.S. Senate, Mass)
When Republicans absolutely trounced Democrats in the 1994 midterms, party hero Ted Kennedy still overcame a very strong challenge by GOP hopeful Mitt Romney, defeating the then-future Republican presidential nominee by a whopping 17 percentage points in what became the icon’s most competitive Senate election in nearly 30 years.
No, DeSantis vs Crist is not an exact apples-to-apples comparison to Kennedy vs Romney. After all, the public is more politically divided today, and Kennedy, by 1994, was already a political legend.
However, popular candidates who are real and legit influencers tend to win comfortably in partisan-friendly states, no matter the political tide at the time.
And while we saw that in Kennedy vs Romney, it doesn’t appear to be happening with DeSantis vs Crist even though DeSantis, unlike Kennedy in 1994, is running in an environment that’s supposedly politically favorable to him.
Perhaps the latest polling has less to do with Gov. DeSantis’s influence in the GOP and more with Republicans’ inability to lure swing voters at a time when the Democratic Party is presumably vulnerable.