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Poll: Clinton up by 9 points in Florida; Rubio holds his own in Senate race

Trump hurt by huge gap with minorities, women

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

florida mugGAINESVILLE, Florida (CFP) — Buoyed by a whopping 50-point margin among minority voters, Democrat Hillary Clinton has opened up a comfortable lead in the key swing state of Florida, a new poll finds.

But a Monmouth University survey released August 16 found that Clinton’s coattails were not reaching down to the U.S. Senate race, where Republican Marco Rubio held a small lead over both of his possible Democratic opponents.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

Clinton was the choice of 48 percent of likely voters in the poll, compared to 39 percent for Republican Donald Trump, 6 percent for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 1 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Clinton’s lead of 9 points was well outside the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, is very nearly a must-win state for both Clinton and Trump. No candidate has won the White House without carrying the Sunshine State since 1992. No Republican has won without it since 1924.

Key demographic results within the polling data show that Clinton’s lead is largely the result of Trump’s weak support among minorities and women.

Trump was the choice of just 19 percent of black, Latino and Asian voters in the poll; Clinton ran 50 points ahead, at 69 percent.

Clinton also held a 30-point lead among women, a gap twice as large as Trump’s 15-point lead among men. The poll also showed Clinton with a 10-point lead among white women, a group Republican Mitt Romney carried by 17 points in a losing effort in 2012.

Trump’s lead among white voters in the poll was 14 points. By contrast, Romney carried white voters by 24 points in 2014.

Trump also continued to suffer from lingering dissent to his nomination within the GOP. Just 79 percent of Florida Republicans polled said they would support Trump, and he was losing 12 percent of the GOP vote to Clinton.

Clinton did much better among Florida Democrats, getting 94 percent support. Just 4 percent of Democrats in the poll said they would vote for Trump. Clinton also held a 17-point among voters who identify as independents.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

In the U.S. Senate race, the poll showed that Rubio–who changed his mind and opted to run for re-election after losing to Trump in the GOP primaries–is outperforming the top of his party’s ticket.

Rubio polled 48 percent to 43 percent for Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is running against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson for his party’s Senate nomination. Rubio’s lead over Grayson was larger, 50 percent to 39 percent.

Grayson and Murphy will square off in an August 30 primary, in which Rubio will also face businessman Carlos Beruff.

Poll: Rubio opens up big lead in Florida U.S. Senate race

Incumbent Republican leads two possible Democratic challengers by double digits

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

florida mugGAINESVILLE, Florida (CFP) — Less than a month after parachuting into Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Marco Rubio has opened up a commanding lead over both of his likely Democratic opponents, according to a new poll.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

A Quinniapiac University poll found that Rubio leads Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy by 13 points, 50 percent to 37 percent. He held nearly the same lead over Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, 50 percent to 38 percent. The poll of 1,015 Florida voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The poll found that Rubio’s only remaining major Republican challenger, businessman Carlos Beruff, was tied with Grayson and trailed Murphy by 6 points, illustrating that at this point, Rubio is a far stronger general election candidate.

The poll did not test how Rubio and Beruff stand with GOP voters ahead of the Aug. 30 primary.

For months, Rubio insisted that he would retire from the Senate after his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination proved unsuccessful, But, under pressure from party leaders concerned about losing the seat to a Democrat, Rubio changed course and filed to run for re-election.

In the wake of that decision, three Republicans who had been fighting for the Senate seat — U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly and Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera — ended their campaigns, leaving Beruff as Rubio’s only hurdle to the Republican nomination.

Marco Rubio reverses course, will seek re-election to the U.S. Senate

Two other GOP candidates depart race after Rubio’s decision

florida mugMIAMI (CFP) — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio will seek re-election to the Senate this fall, reversing an earlier decision to leave political office after his unsuccessful presidential campaign.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

After Rubio announced his decision June 22, two Republicans currently running for his seat, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera, announced they would drop out in deference to Rubio. DeSantis will now run for re-election in Florida’s 6th District.

In a statement announcing his change of heart, Rubio, who had been under pressure from national Republican leaders to run, said he was swayed by the prospect that “the outcome in Florida could determine control of the Senate.”

“That means the future of the Supreme Court will be determined by the Florida Senate seat,” he said. “It means the future of the disastrous Iran nuclear deal will be determined by the Florida Senate seat. It means the direction of our country’s fiscal and economic policies will be determined by this Senate seat.”

Rubio also took a swipe at both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, saying that “no matter who is elected president, there is reason for worry.”

He said Clinton would continue President Obama’s “failed” economic and foreign policies. As for Trump, Rubio’s former presidential primary foe, the senator said he had “significant disagreements” with the Republican nominee, particularly with regard to his “unacceptable” comments about women and minorities.

“If he is elected, we will need senators willing to encourage him in the right direction, and if necessary, stand up to him,” Rubio said. “I’ve proven a willingness to do both.”

Rubio also conceded that by changing his mind about seeking re-election, “my opponents will try to use this decision to score political points against me.”

“Have at it, because I have never claimed to be perfect, or to have all the answers.”

Recent polls have shown Rubio running strongest against both of the two major Democrats in the race, U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter and Alan Grayson of Orlando. A recent Quinniapiac University poll, taken before Rubio entered the race, showed him with a 7 point lead over Murphy and an 8 point lead over Grayson, with none of the other Republicans leading in head-to-head match-ups with the Democrats.

Rubio’s entry has scrambled what had been a five-way battle for the Republican nomination. DeSantis, López-Cantera and U.S. Rep. David Jolly have now all departed, leaving Carlos Beruff, a real estate developer from Manatee County, and Todd Wilcox, a defense contractor and former CIA agent from Windemere.

Beruff slammed Rubio’s decision to “break his pledge to the people of Florida.”

“This isn’t Marco Rubio’s seat; this is Florida’s seat,” Beruff said in a statement. “The power brokers in Washington think they can control this race. They think they can tell the voters of Florida who their candidates are. But the voters of Florida will not obey them.”

GOP U.S. Rep. David Jolly, facing a newly drawn district, switches to U.S. Senate race

Decision comes after the Florida Supreme Court orders changes likely to make Jolly’s district more Democratic

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

florida mugST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CFP) — In the wake of a Florida Supreme Court decision ordering changes in the state’s U.S. House map, Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly has decided to jump into the open U.S. Senate seat in 2016, rather than face re-election in what will likely be a more Democratic district.

U.S. Rep. David Jolly

U.S. Rep. David Jolly

In a statement announcing his campaign July 20, Jolly, 42, who won his House seat in a special election in 2014, said he would run “on an unwavering platform that will reject the politics of division and class warfare that have defined the current administration.”

Lolly also called for creating “a new economy founded on the principle that individuals and families, not government bureaucrats, create success.”

Jolly’s entry into the Senate race adds to a crowded Republican field that already includes U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera.

Jolly currently represents Florida’s 13th District seat in Pinellas County, in the Tampa Bay area. He succeeded the late GOP U.S. Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, who held the seat for more than 42 years before his death in 2013.

Jolly’s win frustrated Democratic hopes of picking up one of only three Republican-held seats in the South that President Obama carried in  2012. He went on to re-election in the 2014 general election and was expected to run again in 2016.

But the Florida Supreme Court threw a monkey wrench into those plans July 9, ruling that the Republican-controlled state legislature unconstitutionally gerrymandered the map to help the GOP’s electoral prospects. The high court ordered the state legislature to redraw eight districts, including Jolly’s.

The Supreme Court objected to the legislature’s decision to shift African-American voters in St. Petersburg into the neighboring 14th District, across the bay in Tampa, to make the 13th more Republican-friendly, which justices said violated a requirement that districts be geographically compact wherever possible.

Shifting those voters back would have made Jolly’s swing district harder to retain.

The Supreme Court’s ruling might also force another U.S. House member into the Senate race on the Democratic side.

The court ruled that the 5th District — an oddly shaped district that snakes through northeast and central Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando to pick up black voters and is at one point the width of a highway — must be redrawn in an east-west configuration from Jacksonville towards the Panhandle.

U.S. House nominee Gwen Graham

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham

That change is likely to shift the Panhandle-based 2nd District , held by U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Tallahassee, to the south, which would make it more Republican and more difficult for her to carry. That prompted Democratic strategists to talk up a possible Graham Senate bid, although the congresswoman herself has remained non-committal.

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist has announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for Jolly’s seat if the legislature, as expected, draws his St. Petersburg home into the district.

The Republican-turned-indepenent-turned-Democrat lost statewide races for the U.S. Senate in 2012 and for governor in 2014.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson off and running for Senate seat in Florida

Outspoken liberal firebrand’s campaign sets up a battle royale in the Democratic primary

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

florida mugORLANDO (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, the firebrand liberal notorious for caustic comments about Republicans, has announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2016, setting up what is likely to be a bruising Democratic primary battle in the Sunshine State.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson

“I am unbought and unbossed,” Grayson, D-Orlando, said in a video announcing his Senate bid posted to his campaign website July 9. “I own nothing to anyone but the people.”

Grayson is running in defiance of Democratic party leaders, who are backing moderate U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter and had hoped to avoid what is likely to be a divisive Democratic primary.

On the day of his announcement, Grayson provided a flavor of what’s to come in an interview with WKMG-TV in Orlando, in which he accused Murphy of being a closet Republican and said the Senate race “is going to live until the end of time.”

“People understand what I stand for. Patrick wants to cut Social Security, cut Medicare, and Patrick gave $2,300 to Mitt Romney’s campaign,” he said. “Patrick’s running in the wrong primary. He should be running as a Republican because that’s who he really is.”

To bring home the flavor of his political persona, Grayson is calling his campaign website

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy

For his part, Murphy greeted Grayson’s announcement by issuing a statement saying he was looking forward “to a clean, honest discussion of the issues in this primary.”

Grayson, 57, a Harvard-educated lawyer, burst onto the national scene after his election to Congress in 2008 with a floor speech in which he said the GOP’s health care plan was for the uninsured “to die quickly.” He has called Republicans “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals,” likened the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan and once compared former Vice President Dick Cheney to a vampire.

In 2009, he had to apologize after calling a female lobbyist “a K Street whore.” He is also known to subject reporters to profanity-laden tirades for stories he doesn’t like.

Grayson’s controversial profile cost him his House seat in 2010, a campaign in which he referred to his opponent, U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, as “Taliban Dan” in a television ad. But Grayson returned to Congress in 2012, winning in a newly created Orlando-area district.

In addition to his hyperbolic comments, Grayson is also involved in a nasty divorce with his wife of 25 years, Lolita, whom he accused of bigamy and tried to have arrested for using a joint credit card to buy groceries. Lolita Grayson has charged that the congressman was unfaithful and abusive.

In his kickoff announcement, Grayson took an unabashed liberal line, calling for ending taxes on Social Security benefits, expanding Medicare to cover dental and vision care and ensuring that “every job should provide enough money to become part of the middle class.”

The Senate seat opened up when Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio decided to run for president. Democratic leaders are fearful that Grayson’s is too controversial and too liberal to win a statewide race in Florida — squandering an opportunity to pick up a seat that is vital to the party’s hopes of taking back the Senate.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is backing Murphy, 32, who was a registered Republican until he switched parties to run for the House in 2012. He was re-elected in 2014 with nearly 60 percent of the vote in a competitive district.

On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis has jumped into the Senate race, and Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera is also expected to run.

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