A final St. Pete Polls survey in House District 72 shows Republican Fiona McFarland with a small lead on Democrat Drake Buckman.
The poll, commissioned by Florida Politics, shows McFarland the choice of 48% of likely voters, Buckman the pick for 47% and another 5% undecided. Pollsters report a 4.6% margin of error.
Respondents were polled on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, days before the race gets settled. But the results show McFarland surging as the election draws near. A poll taken by the same outfit on Oct. 17 and 18 found Buckman leading 48% to 44%.
The same poll shows Joe Biden maintaining an advantage in the district despite Republicans holding a registration edge. The Democratic presidential nominee leads 52% to President Donald Trump’s 46%. But that too has tightened from a 16-percentage-point lead a few weeks ago.
The survey results indicate McFarland has a path to victory, but also confirms she will have to come from behind to win. Nearly 83% of likely voters already cast their ballot by mail or through early voting. Among those whose vote has been locked in, Buckman leads 53% to 42%. The saving grace for McFarland comes in that 77% of those still planning to vote intend to pick her, while just 15% support Buckman. Another 8% of those yet to vote also have yet to decide.
Expect a rollercoaster as results come in. The poll suggests only 6% of Democrats still have their vote pending, while 29% of Republicans are still waiting to vote. About 16% of the independent vote remains in the field.
That vital independent vote is breaking 51% for Buckman and 43% to McFarland, with 6% on the fence. Meanwhile, Buckman has been able to peel off nearly 16% of Republican voters while McFarland appealed to 14% of Democrats.
In the final stretch, Buckman has more cash left in the bank. Financial reports show McFarland with around $22,443 in cash on hand to the Democrat’s $52,224. But McFarland’s Friends of Sarasota political committee has $3,771 left while Buckman’s The Sunshine Fund is in the hole $11,033.
The poll still finds Gov. Ron DeSantis unpopular within the district. The Republican leader, who won HD 72 by 0.4% over Andrew Gillum in 2018, has a net negative approval rating, with 49% disapproving of the job he’s doing and just 45% saying good things.
This district, despite registered Republicans outnumbering Democrats here by 9,494 voters according to book closing reports, has been a perpetual bellwether.
Republican Alex Miller won here with 58% of the vote in 2016, when Trump won the district 50% to Hillary Clinton’s 46%. But when Miller left office early, Democrat Margaret Good won a Special Election by 7 points in 2018. Good held onto the seat the following November, but by a tighter margin, winning 51% to Republican Ray Pilon’s 49%.
The race was always expected to be a battleground, especially after Good announced she would run for Congress instead of seeking another term. The race has emerged as one of Florida’s tightest House contests this cycle.