Yet another poll suggests Bill Nelson would beat Rick Scott in 2018 senate race

Polls show U.S. Sen. From Florida Bill Nelson, pictured here, is doing well in polls pitting him against Governor Rick Scott, but anything can happen between now and 2018. - Jon Worth
Jon Worth
Polls show U.S. Sen. From Florida Bill Nelson, pictured here, is doing well in polls pitting him against Governor Rick Scott, but anything can happen between now and 2018.

In the hypothetical but highly possible Florida Senate contest between Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator from Florida Bill Nelson and current Florida Governor Rick Scott, polls have consistently shown that incumbent Nelson has quite the advantage — at this point.

And yet another poll, conducted in March and commissioned by the Florida Chamber of Commerce (the results of which we spotted over at Florida Politics Monday), shows Nelson beating Scott 48-42 in 2018.

Scott has not been the most popular guy over the years, at least not with moderates — and, of course, Democrats can't stand him. The latest poll shows Republicans supporting Scott 75-18 percent and Democrats supporting Nelson 79-11 percent. It is unclear whether the poll included Independents and non-party affiliates, who constitute a growing number of Florida's electorate and are believed to be wildly unpredictable.

While several positive polls in a row for Nelson's reelection prospects are likely good news for the only Democrat in Florida to be elected statewide, the path to his reelection, despite Scott's unpopularity, will likely be perilous. 

Last time Nelson was reelected, it was 2012, a presidential election year in which Democrats had a relatively easy time all down the ballot.

But 2018? That'll probably be another year in which, despite hype and dollars spent, Republican and right-leaning Independent turnout will be higher.

Plus, the same money that got Scott elected governor in 2010 and then reelected in 2014 will be in play, and there'll be a ton of it. You'd better believe it'll be put to use churning out messaging that goes to town blaming Nelson (and Democrats as a whole) for the country's problems — even though Republicans will have been totally in control for two years by then, and will only have themselves to blame for whatever the crisis of the day happens to be at the state and federal levels. 

Still, that type of simplistic, negative messaging could do wonders for Republicans in terms of depressing Democratic turnout, especially if Nelson gets competition from the left in the primary and the GOP can exploit Nelson's centrism and trick the Democratic Party into tearing itself apart again, just like in 2016.

The one hope Democrats have in what could otherwise be an underperforming year is the momentum that has clearly sprung up in the wake of Donald Trump's inauguration. Scott is an unabashed Trump ally, and the Trump administration's idea of running the country seems to parallel the Scott administration's approach to running Florida — slashes to environmental protection, sticking it to the poor and all. Past polling suggests voters in Florida want a counterbalance to Trump, not a sycophant.

There's a good litmus for whether that momentum will be sticking around that's coming up later this spring: the special election to fill Georgia's 6th Congressional District seat, which Republican Tom Price left when he was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services. While the district has been bright red for decades, Trump won it by just 1.5 percent in November, so the Dems think they have a shot with young newcomer Jon Ossof (and polling shows they might, if they can overcome all the money Republicans are pumping into the race). That election is April 18, but the ballot is crowded, which means the top two vote-getters will likely have to face off in a June 20 runoff. If it works out for the Dems, it'll be a good sign going into the midterms, especially for someone like Nelson.

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