A new poll from St. Leo University found Gov. Rick Scott has surpassed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in for Nelson’s seat in 2018.
The poll, conducted online between Nov. 19 and Nov. 24, showed Scott with a double-digit lead over Nelson in the matchup, 42-32, with 8 percent preferring another candidate and 18 percent undecided.
Eight months ago Nelson held a 5-point lead over Scott, 39-34, and in September the Scott took a slim 35-33 lead.
Scott, a Republican, has not formally entered the race for U.S. Senate, but he is termed-out as governor and is almost sure to challenge Nelson, a Democrat, in his campaign for a fourth term next year.
“We’re still almost a year out from the 2018 elections, but Rick Scott is in the best position he’s been in yet against incumbent Bill Nelson,” said polling institute director Frank Orlando. “It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this support while his party is hurting electorally throughout the country.”
Scott has also made considerable strides over the last two months when it comes to voters’ perception of his job performance.
Back in March, about 56 percent of Florida voters said they had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the second-term governor, while about 39 percent said they viewed Scott, a Republican, in a “somewhat unfavorable” or “not at all favorable” light.
Last month, the positive view climbed to about 61 percent while the negatives had dwindled to about 31 percent. The other 8 percent said they were unsure how they felt about Scott.
The poll also touched on the leading candidates to replace Scott in the governor’s mansion, though the bulk of the survey was conducted when Orlando attorney John Morgan was still considering a run in the Democratic Primary.
Morgan, who said the day after Thanksgiving he would not run for governor as a Democrat, had the most support among Dems at about 13 percent, followed by former congresswoman Gwen Graham at 9.4 percent.
Among all voters lumped together — Republicans, Democrats and independents — Morgan again came out on top with 24 percent support, followed by Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam at just under 19 percent.
About 53 percent of Democratic voters said they were unsure, leaving the race wide open for fellow Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum (6 percent), Orlando-area businessman Chris King (3 percent) and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine (2 percent).
“No one has been able to rally establishment support and win the invisible primary. With some uncertainty removed as Morgan took himself out of contention, the process of winnowing the field might finally begin in earnest,” Orlando said.
Putnam, who has gone gangbusters on the fundraising trail, leads the Republican field with 15 percent support, though nearly 63 percent of GOP respondents were unsure.
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, not yet a candidate, was second-place among named options at 4.8 percent, followed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and embroiled Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, both with under 3 percent support.
“Adam Putnam isn’t in an insurmountable position, but he’s at least the leader in the clubhouse,” Orlando said. “Other prominent GOPers are busy fulfilling the duties of their office or in the news for the wrong reasons. It’s difficult to compare Putnam against Morgan at this point, as our results show that voters would still prefer someone else in the governor’s mansion.”
The poll took in responses from 500 Florida voters — including 181 Democrats and 166 Republicans — and has a 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level. More detailed information on the poll’s methodology and findings can be found on the St. Leo University polling website.