By Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — With the primary elections almost exactly a month away, a poll released Friday shows Democrat Gwen Graham and Republican Ron DeSantis as the front-runners in the race to replace Gov. Rick Scott.
The Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy poll came after Florida Atlantic University also released a poll this week showing Graham and DeSantis leading their gubernatorial primaries — though the margins were larger in the Mason-Dixon results.
“Democrat Gwen Graham and Republican Ron DeSantis have established themselves as the clear front-runners in their respective gubernatorial primaries,” Mason-Dixon said in analysis accompanying its results.
The Mason-Dixon poll showed Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, getting the support of 27 percent of Democratic voters, followed by former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at 18 percent. They were followed by Palm Beach businessman Jeff Greene at 12 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 10 percent, Winter Park businessman Chris King at 7 percent and other candidates at 1 percent. Many Democratic voters — 25 percent — were undecided as the Aug. 28 primary nears
The Florida Atlantic University poll, by comparison, gave Graham a four-point edge over Levine.
Graham has large leads over her primary competitors among women and Hispanic voters, according to the Mason-Dixon poll. But she also might be benefiting from Greene’s entrance into the race last month, with Mason-Dixon saying Levine’s “previously growing base of support appears to be stalled.”
“Levine had been running about even with Graham until Greene jumped in,” the Mason-Dixon analysis said. “Both men have extremely similar profiles — politically experienced, successful business owners who are white, male, Jewish and from South Florida. They each have tremendous personal wealth that gives them the ability to put a considerable amount of their own money into their campaigns. With this over-lapping appeal, the two are drawing a combined 30 percent of voters — slightly more than Graham.”
In the Republican gubernatorial primary, meanwhile, the poll showed DeSantis, a Northeast Florida congressman who enjoys support from President Donald Trump, with a double-digit lead over state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Mason-Dixon’s analysis pointed to Trump’s support as a key factor for DeSantis. The president is slated to hold a rally Tuesday in Tampa in which he will tout DeSantis.
“It is likely that President Donald Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis is the driving factor behind the shift in the race,” the Mason-Dixon analysis said.
The poll said 41 percent of GOP voters backed DeSantis, while 29 percent supported Putnam. The Florida Atlantic University poll, by comparison, gave DeSantis a nine-point edge over Putnam. Mason-Dixon’s results indicated DeSantis has large leads over Putnam among male and white voters.
Mason-Dixon, a longtime pollster in Florida, conducted telephone interviews of 625 registered voters statewide who said they were likely to vote in the November general election. The poll was conducted from Monday through Wednesday.