Political polls. Attempting to derive any long-term meaning from them is pointless, but taking them as moments in time and charting the rise and fall of candidates over the lead up to a given election can be pretty interesting. That is, assuming the candidates are compelling.
This year, they sure as hell are, especially the GOP presidential primary and the two primary battles for the U.S. Senate seat Marco Rubio is vacating to run for president.
A recent Florida Atlantic University poll of Florida voters suggests Floridians are really digging Donald Trump (who's also currently ridin' high in the wake of an endorsement from Sarah Palin). Nearly half — 47.6 percent! — of the 383 Republican likely voters polled said they'd vote for Trump if the election were held the day the poll was being taken.
That puts him well ahead of the two major Republican candidates who cut their political teeth in Florida: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (9.5 percent) and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (11.1 percent).
Meanwhile, the same pollster surveyed 386 likely Democratic voters in the state. The results reflected a small surge for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, though not enough to surmount frontrunner Hillary Clinton, whom 62.2 of respondents said they'd support. Sanders, meanwhile got 25.9 of the vote and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley got 3.9 percent.
Not that the sample size is huge or anything, but it reflects how Florida Republicans might behave on March 15, our state's presidential preference primary (assuming Trump doesn't confess that he's been trolling us this whole time and drop out before then). In turn, it could reflect the eventual national outcome (though we should have a good idea of that anyway). While Florida's presidential preference primaries don't always predict who the nominee will be (we went for Hillary Clinton in 2008), every other presidential primary since at least the '90s went for the eventual nominee.
The U.S. Senate primary poll consisted of 371 Democrats and 345 Republican registered likely primary voters in Florida.
In the Democratic primary between U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (D—Orlando) and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D—West Palm Beach), Grayson took 27 percent of the vote, Murphy took 20 percent, 45 percent were undecided and eight percent opted for someone else. Pamela Keith, another Democratic primary candidate, was not named in the poll.
Even though the number of undecided voters nearly matched those who supported him, campaign staffers for Grayson, a favorite among the states progressive Democrats, welcomed the results.
“The Democrats paying attention to this race now, and who will certainly show up in August, know Alan Grayson as a true progressive champion who will fight for seniors, women and veterans, and he'll always stand up to Wall Street and the war mongers,” said Mario Piscatella, the Grayson campaign’s political director in a media release. “His message of justice, equality and peace is not something new that Alan Grayson decided to embrace to get elected. He’s been fighting these good fights for years. And Democrats in Florida know and trust that about him."
On the GOP side, meanwhile, U.S. Rep David Jolly enjoyed the highest number of supporters, 28 percent, with his two major opponents, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R—Ponte Vedra Beach), each in the single digits with seven percent. The lesser-known Todd Wilcox was not included.
The poll suggests 50 percent of GOP voters are still undecided, and another eight percent preferred someone else.
Jolly, who has been relatively consistent as a frontrunner (and as a not-very-extreme person would probably do well statewide), made headlines earlier this week as he announced he's filing a bill that would bar federal elected officials from doing any direct fundraising, something they spend a hell of a lot of time doing.
He, too, lauded the results of the FAU poll.
“I’m not interested in playing it safe or following a conventional playbook,” said Congressman Jolly. “I’ve heard the call from my first day in office that Floridians are angry about a Washington culture more focused on self-preservation than fixing real-world problems. That’s why together we’re going to obliterate the status-quo and get Congress back to work.”