Margaret Good’s pollsters say she’s in striking distance, though Vern Buchanan’s team disagrees

vern buchanan vs. margaret good
Internal polls from Good's campaign show her down by 6. Buchanan's camp says, try 16.

Democrat Margaret Good’s campaign released a poll showing her within 6 percentage points of incumbent GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan.

A memo from Global Strategy Group shows Buchanan as the choice of 49% of voters with Good at 43%. With the incumbent under 50%, that leaves a real, albeit narrow, path to ousting the seven-term Congressman.

But the Buchanan camp responded to the leaked poll with a release of its own internal polling. That shows the incumbent leading with 53% to Good’s 37%. That wide and insurmountable lead was measured by Data Targeting.

The Buchanan poll was conducted from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, and reports a 4.9% margin of error. The Good survey was taken between Sept. 24 and 27, with a margin of error of 4.4%. Neither camp released full crosstabs on the race.

Good’s pollsters suggest the district looks far less rosy for Republicans in the current political environment. While President Donald Trump in 2016 won in Florida’s 16th Congressional District by 9 percentage points over Hillary Clinton, the Republican President holds just a 2-point lead over Joe Biden in the district today.

Moreover, the Global Strategy Group says Buchanan doesn’t garner any particular respect among voters either.

“Buchanan is a weak incumbent with little personal brand,” according to the memo from Good’s campaign.

While acknowledging the Democratic challenger lacks the name recognition of the incumbent, Good pollsters suggest their candidate boasts higher regard among those in the know. Buchanan’s approval rating sits at 43% favorable, 39% unfavorable (+4) while Good enjoys a grade of 34% favorable, 23% unfavorable (+11).

“Good’s cross party appeal puts her within striking distance,” the Good memo states. That shows her overperforming a generic Democrat by 1 percentage point and Vern a point down from a generic Republican.

Most important, the poll shows independents breaking for Good 49% to Buchanan’s 41%.

But the Buchanan internal poll suggests all of this paints an unrealistic picture for Good’s prospects.

The Data Targeting pollsters show independents breaking hard in Buchanan’s favor, 54% to Good’s 30%.

Buchanan’s pollsters also note the Republican enjoys a 25-point lead within the age 65 and older demographic, a reliable bloc that decides elections in retiree-rich Southwest Florida. About 60% of older voters will bubble for Buchanan to win reelection, according to that polling.

The pollster also suggests a different picture exists in terms of Good’s likability.

“In early September, just 8% of respondents had an unfavorable impression of Representative Good,” the Buchanan memo states. “As of last week, 19% of respondents now view Good negatively. Further, Good’s image is underwater among Independent voters with just 15% of Independents viewing her favorably to 16% with an unfavorable impression.”

Buchanan’s team said she’s also not offering much crossover appeal to soft Republicans. Just 9% of GOP voters view her favorably, compared to 32% who view her unfavorably.

“Vern has maintained a 16-point lead in this race because of his strong record of accomplishment that includes 22 bills signed into law compared with zero for Margaret,” said Buchanan campaign manager Max Goodman. “Vern is recognized by non-partisan groups as one of the most bipartisan and effective members of Congress while Margaret is a partisan gadfly with no record of achievement.”

Good has always faced long odds to unseat Buchanan. In 2018, the Republican incumbent fended off a nationally backed challenge by Democrat David Shapiro, winning by 10 percentage points. Of course, that’s a good bit tighter than in 2016, when he defeated Democrat Jan Schneider by 20 points.

While even Good’s own numbers show her performing better than prior Democratic candidates, there’s still a ways to go to prove she can oust Buchanan. The results of the Nov. 3 contest may show if the district is trending more Democratic regardless of the outcome.

The Democratic challenger in July was added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program, purportedly thanks to internal polling showing a path to victory at the time. That said, the DCCC’s Swing The House Fund announced this weekend spotlighted three Florida candidates — incumbents Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and open seat nominee Alan Cohn — but not Good.

The Democrat told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune she raised $1.1 million in the third quarter. Buchanan has not released quarterly figures yet.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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