Of U.S. Congressman John Rutherford‘s three Democratic General Election opponents, former broadcast journalist Donna Deegan has by far the highest profile.
Deegan, who came out of the same local newscast crucible from which First Lady Casey Black DeSantis emerged, ultimately will find the transition from broadcast to politics tough, says new polling from the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Laboratory.
Rutherford is on pace to win by roughly 20%, according to the poll of 565 likely voters in Florida’s 4th Congressional District. He was the choice of 57% of those surveyed, compared to Deegan’s 38%.
The district has a 20 point GOP lean, with 48% of the voters registered Republican and just 28% Democratic, and that’s just too much to overcome, asserts UNF PORL director Dr. Michael Binder.
“Despite Deegan’s extensive non-profit work and name recognition in Duval, the Republican registration advantage in that district appears to be too much to overcome for the political newcomer and the former Sheriff is poised to win a third term,” Binder commented.
Binder’s poll shows some favorable signs for Deegan, who has run one of those Democratic pragmatist style campaigns with overt outreach to independents and wobbly Republicans.
Deegan stands at +93 in her own party, with 96% of Democrats willing to vote for her. Republicans overwhelmingly back Rutherford also in this survey, with 89% enthused and just 5% breaking to the Democrat.
NPA voters surveyed are almost evenly split here, with 46% backing Deegan and 45% behind Rutherford.
Another positive sign for Deegan is that she is gaining ground with female voters, just eight points behind the incumbent, with 42% backing her in the survey. However, men back Rutherford by nearly a two-to-one margin, showing the Democrat still hasn’t been able to connect with male voters.
The UNF numbers, however dire, are an improvement from a September poll by St. Pete Polls that showed Rutherford up 27 points.
For her part, Deegan intends to finish strong. Her campaign trumpeted a $350,000 fundraising quarter, and she has been deployed in this region of the state as a Biden surrogate.
But barring a drastic reversal in voter preferences in the next few weeks, the 2020 race likely will be merely a trial run for what’s coming next for the high-profile Democrat.