A new St. Pete Polls survey has Republican Rep. Brian Mast with an 8-point lead over his Democratic opponent, Pam Keith.
Mast earned 50% support in the survey, which ran on Friday, Sept. 18. Keith received 42% support. Non-party affiliated candidate K.W. Miller pulled in just over 2%. Another 5% of respondents were undecided.
Mast holds a lead despite earning rebukes over recently-unearthed comments from around a decade ago where he joked about sleeping with 15-year-olds and rape. People on both sides of the political spectrum have called for Mast to resign over those comments. Mast has apologized for the social media posts and resisted calls to step down.
Despite the controversy, Mast’s 8-point lead sits outside the survey’s 2.9-percentage-point margin of error. The survey sampled 1,149 likely voters inside Florida’s 18th Congressional District.
The poll showed Keith underperforming Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden inside CD 18. Biden is earning 48.5% support as compared to 48.2% for President Donald Trump.
That’s a significant shift for Democrats when compared to 2016. Trump topped then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton 53%-44% inside CD 18.
According to an analysis by MCI Maps, that shift was largely prompted by a sharp swing in St. Lucie County toward Republicans. CD 18 covers parts of northern Palm Beach County — including West Palm Beach — and extends into Martin and St. Lucie counties.
Mast won the open seat in 2016 by more than 10 percentage points. That came just two years after Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy won his own reelection bid by nearly 20 percentage points. In 2018, Mast again won comfortably with a margin of 8 percentage points.
That’s right in line the latest results from St. Pete Polls. Mast is also carrying a large money advantage into the General Election cycle. The most recent reports cover financial data through July 29. As of that date, Mast holds more than $1.81 million while Keith is sitting on just $101,000.
That stands as an outlier at the moment, however. Two other well-respected analyses — one by Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, another by the Cook Political Report — don’t even list CD 18 as a competitive race.