Should Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried run for Florida Governor, she starts in a statistical tie with Gov. Ron DeSantis.
That’s according to a new survey by St. Pete Polls, commissioned exclusively for Florida Politics.
The poll found the incumbent Republican Governor and the potential Democratic challenger both taking about 45% of the vote. A close look shows DeSantis winning 45.2% to Fried’s 44.6%, a difference far smaller than the survey’s 2.2% margin of error.
The poll finds DeSantis holding 76% Republican support, while Fried has less than 72% among Democrats, showing the incumbent performing better with his own base. But 46% of independents favor Fried, compared to 42% who prefer DeSantis.
As one of the first publicly released head-to-head polls on the potential matchup, the results suggest another nail-biter election in Florida’s future.
The only other poll taken this year included by either outfit is a Mason-Dixon poll earlier this month that showed DeSantis with a more comfortable 9-percentage-point lead on Fried; the same poll found DeSantis up 11 points in a head-to-head with Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.
Fried’s solid performance in this poll came despite St. Pete Polls pollsters predicting greater Republican turnout in 2022.
The sample for the survey, taken March 22-24, broke down to 38.2% Republicans, 37.5% Democrats, and 24.2% independents.
Fried, the only Democrat now holding statewide office in Florida, has openly acknowledged for months she may challenge DeSantis’ reelection. Both officials were first elected to their current office in 2018 — and both only after statewide recounts confirmed the results of their respective races.
DeSantis defeated then-Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 33,684 votes, or 0.4 percentage points, in the final count. Fried beat then-state Rep. Matt Caldwell by a mere 6,753 votes, less than 0.1 percentage points.
Those results bolstered Florida’s reputation as a closely divided state. But Florida also went to Donald Trump in 2020 despite Democrat Joe Biden flipping several other battlegrounds the Republican incumbent won in 2016. It was one of three states where Republicans improved performance over 2016. And notably, the state broke largely — if narrowly — for the GOP in 2018 for both the Governor’s race and a critical Senate contest between then incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and now-Sen. Rick Scott.
In 2022, another Senate seat, this one held by incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, will also be on the ballot.
DeSantis has also emerged as a national figure during the coronavirus pandemic, painting himself as an anti-lockdown conservative and faring well in some very early primary polling for the 2024 race for President, including an Echelon Insights poll released Wednesday.
But that has also drawn interest among Democrats who want to cut that run off at the pass by defeating the Governor in his home state in 2022.