Florida Republican leaders, including Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio, have taken sizable leads over their Democratic challengers less than two months before the November midterm elections, a new poll showed Monday.
DeSantis holds an 8-percentage point lead, 49%-41%, over former Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, according to the Spectrum News/Siena College poll of 669 likely Florida voters. DeSantis is widely viewed as a top contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination — second perhaps only to former President Donald Trump.
Rubio leads his Democratic rival, Rep. Val Demings, by 7 points, 48%-41%, the survey found.
The spreads in both of those races exceeded the poll’s margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.5 percentage points. Respondents were contacted by landline and cell phone in English and Spanish, according to the Siena College Research Institute.
The poll was conducted Sept. 18 to Sept. 25, prior to the impact of Hurricane Ian, which pummeled swaths of Florida’s western coastline last week when it made landfall as a Category 4 storm. The hurricane left dozens dead, with the death count still rising Monday morning, and millions at least temporarily without power or clean water.
Ian’s approach, and the devastation left in its wake, has put a spotlight on DeSantis’ leadership, including his shift to a more collegial tone with the Biden administration as he requested federal assistance with the storm. The governor has otherwise largely deployed an aggressive rhetorical style and a willingness to wade into politically animating culture-war issues.
Days before Ian emerged as a prime threat to Florida, DeSantis was in the news over his administration’s decision to send planes filled with dozens of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Critics decried the move as a stunt that used human beings as props. But the Siena poll found that a majority of respondents, 49%-44%, supported the state sending migrants from Florida to other states.
While the poll question asked about migrants from Florida, DeSantis’ program reportedly relocated migrants who were seeking asylum in Texas.
Florida likely voters overall identified economic issues as their top area of concern for the midterms. A plurality of Democratic respondents ranked “threats to democracy” as their No. 1 issue.
More than one-third of Democrats also picked abortion as either their first or second choice on the list of top issues.
“While abortion doesn’t make it into the top seven issues for men, it’s the second most important issue for women,” said Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute, in a statement.
More than 90% of Democratic respondents said they opposed the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which protected the federal right to an abortion before viability. A majority of voters overall, 57%-34% opposed the conservative court’s ruling, even as GOP respondents said they support it by a three-to-one margin.
Siena’s poll also showed Ashley Moody, Florida’s Republican attorney general, leading Democratic candidate Aramis Ayala, 41%-34%.