One thing is clear at this point in the race for Florida’s next Attorney General: While former Circuit Judge Ashley Moody is enjoying a slight lead — within the margin of error — the GOP primary is anyone’s race.
In statewide campaigns in Florida politics, two things matter when assessing the leaderboard this early in the race — money and polling.
In other words, where do the candidates stand right now with voters and how do their financial resources best position them until and on Election Day?
In a new St. Pete Polls survey conducted last week, just ahead of when candidate qualifying begins, voters remain overwhelmingly unsure in this race.
When asked which candidate they would vote for, 61.1 percent are undecided, 14.9 percent would vote for Moody, 13.7 percent for state Rep. Frank White and 10.2 percent for state Rep. Jay Fant. And concerning polling with a margin of error of 3 percent, this means that before candidates begin spending money on paid advertising, Moody and White are tied, and Fant lurks just below them.
After all the endorsements, all the campaign events, conservative talk radio appearances and Republican club speeches, not a single candidate has broken out in the Republican primary race to succeed Attorney General Pam Bondi.
The primary election is just 78 days away and these numbers demonstrate what some of Florida’s savvier political observers and donors have long suggested: in a race where all three candidates begin relatively unknown, this race will come down to resources.
White currently has a large cash advantage over Moody, but that is boosted by $2.75 million of his own money, beginning with a million-dollar television ad buy last week. He says it will continue through Election Day.
Moody has establishment support as well as an enviable list of endorsements (including Bondi’s), but she needs just a little more traction with primary voters, at least according to polling.
As for Fant, his less-than-stellar showing in the poll coupled with significantly fewer resources than either White or Moody may only serve to stoke the ever-present rumors that he may not even make it to qualifying and could pursue a graceful exit.
By many accounts, this is shaping up to be a two-person race between Moody, her resume and endorsements versus White, his resource advantage and conservative bona fides.
This is one of the more interesting statewide races flying under the radar for 2018. In the next couple of weeks, it will be interesting to see what Fant decides to do and how the Moody campaign counters White and his money.
The scientific results shown for the questions below have a sample size of 1,046 and a 3.0 percent margin of error.
Summary of scientific results:
In the Republican primary race for Attorney General, who would you vote for: Jay Fant, Ashley Moody or Frank White?
Jay Fant: 10.2 percent
Ashley Moody: 14.9 percent
Frank White: 13.7 percent
Undecided: 61.1 percent
Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Jay Fant?
Favorable: 18.8 percent
Unfavorable: 6.1 percent
Unsure: 75.0 percent
Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Ashley Moody?
Favorable: 19.4 percent
Unfavorable: 8.2 percent
Unsure: 72.4 percent
Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Frank White?
Favorable: 19.9 percent
Unfavorable: 7.1 percent
Unsure: 73.0 percent