By now, Floridians know to be skeptical about political polls. I’m sure that was the reaction by many, myself included, when the latest St. Pete Polls survey showed Charlie Crist leading Gov. Ron DeSantis by 1 percentage point in a theoretical head-to-head matchup in 2022.
DeSantis held a narrow lead over Democrat Nikki Fried, who is stepping up her game lately.
Before we dig too deep into that, though, haters might want to have a moment of pause before dismissing it as fake news. The poll has a tiny 1.6% margin of error, made more impressive by the large sample size of 3,952 people.
St. Pete Polls also is part of the Five Thirty Eight and Real Clear Politics aggregations.
Translation: Those folks have some cred.
For now, we’ll focus on the potential Crist-DeSantis matchup. We’ll keep in mind that a poll is only the capture of a moment in time — and it’s quite far out from the election. Democrats might be encouraged, and it could help with fundraising, but that’s about it.
Besides, there are some landmines inside the numbers for Democrats.
For instance, Crist holds a 10% lead over DeSantis among those ages 18-29. That’s a group where turnout is always a major issue.
Black voters supported Crist in this poll by a whopping 68% to 16%. However, Florida’s new voting restrictions could suppress Black turnout, which, I suppose, was the intent all along.
It wouldn’t take much erosion in the Black and youth vote for Crist’s margin to evaporate.
However, it also would be a mistake if Republicans make too little of this poll. They haven’t won this thing yet, and the perception is starting to build that DeSantis’ real aim is the White House in 2024. Could swing voters decide they don’t want a Governor who will spend two years running for a higher office, only to potentially leave before his term is up?
Even if he overcomes that, this is a volatile time. DeSantis has been popular so far (though he was upside down in the latest poll), but that could quickly tank if his disdain for COVID-19 restrictions backfires. Remember, his approval rating sank last summer when the virus rampaged through Florida.
That could happen again, especially with DeSantis being vehemently opposed to mandatory masks in schools.
Then, there’s the likability factor with DeSantis. He can be prickly and has a dismissive demeanor, and that could turn off the much-sought independent voters. The poll showed Crist with a 6% lead there, and that could be significant. If Crist wins the nomination, his genial nature will be in sharp contrast to DeSantis.
Poll or no poll, the odds still greatly favor DeSantis at the moment.
Vaccinations are the best way to control the virus, and the data shows sharp increases in those rushing to get the shot.
Vaccines give a high level of protection against a potentially lethal bug, which could soon mean fewer bad headlines and better poll numbers for DeSantis. He’s also sitting on a vast amount of money that he won’t have to spend until the actual campaign gets serious.
The poll gave us something to talk about, though.
For now, that’s enough.