First polls show mixed picture on Rubio-Demings race

A pair of polls out of Florida paint a mixed picture of the state’s closely watched Senate race, suggesting an unpredictable contest in one of the nation’s most unpredictable battlegrounds. 

One survey conducted by St. Pete Polls for the website Florida Politics shows Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Senators call for answers from US firm over reported use of forced Uyghur labor in China MORE (R-Fla.) and his main Democratic opponent, Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsSenate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September Two senior House Democrats to retire Democratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse MORE, neck-and-neck. Rubio leads Demings by a scant 2 percentage points, 48 percent to 46 percent. That’s still within the poll’s 2.2-point margin of error. 

Another poll commissioned by the gaming company BUSR and fielded by Susquehanna Polling and Research shows Rubio leading in the race against Demings 50 percent to 39 percent, giving him an 11-point lead that sits well outside of the survey’s 3.7 percentage point margin of error. 

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The polls, two of the first to survey Florida voters on the Senate matchup, offer a murky picture of the state of the race nearly 15 months out from the 2022 election. Both pollsters  Susquehanna Polling and St. Pete Polls  hold B-plus ratings from the data website FiveThirtyEight.

Despite the differences, both polls show a closely divided state.

According to the St. Pete Polls survey, Rubio has the support of 82 percent of Republican voters, while Demings notches 79 percent support among Florida Democrats. 

The Susquehanna poll, meanwhile, shows Rubio’s support running even deeper among his base, with 91 percent of Republicans backing him. Eighty-one percent of Democrats stood behind Demings in that poll, while independent voters were near evenly divided between the two candidates.

Demings jumped into the Senate race in early June after deciding to forgo a run for Florida governor. Her entrance was seen as a win for Senate Democratic leaders, who saw her as a top recruit to challenge Rubio, a Miami-area Republican who won his second term in the Senate in 2016 after an unsuccessful bid for the GOP presidential nomination.

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The Senate contest is one of two marquee statewide races in Florida next year. Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisArizona attorney general asks for restraining order to block federal vaccine mandate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters MORE (R) is also up for reelection and is facing challenges from two high-profile Democrats, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Rep. Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristDemocrats scramble to reach deal on taxes Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo announces bid to be Florida's first Latina governor Democratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse MORE (D-Fla.), who previously served one term as Florida governor.

Florida has proved an elusive target for Democrats in recent years. 

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE, now a Florida resident himself, carried the state twice. His 2020 win there was particularly biting for Democrats, given the former president’s gains in Democratic-leaning South Florida. Democrats also lost two key Miami-area House seats in 2020 that they had managed to pick up just two years earlier.

The 2018 midterm elections also proved disappointing for Florida Democrats. That year, former Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA adviser quits after request to change name of James Webb telescope denied NASA won't rename James Webb Space Telescope despite controversy FAA unveils new system to reduce planes' times on taxiway MORE (D-Fla.) lost reelection to Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), while DeSantis defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum in the state’s hotly contested gubernatorial election.

The St. Pete Poll survey is based on responses from 2,068 registered Florida voters and was conducted from Aug. 16 to 17. It used an automated phone call polling system to reach respondents. The Susquehanna poll surveyed 700 registered Florida voters from Aug. 4 to 10. Respondents were reached by live agents by phone.