Sen. Marco Rubio holds just a 2-percentage-point edge over Democratic challenger Val Demings, according to a new survey released Wednesday morning.
The Senate remains the favorite for reelection, leading with 48% to Demings 46%, according to the latest numbers from St. Pete Polls. That leaves his lead within the poll’s 2.2% margin of error, and the two-term incumbent sits below a critical 50% support level.
The first major poll of the election cycle pegging Rubio and Demings head-to-head, the Florida Politics-commissioned survey was conducted Monday and Tuesday. Results include responses from 2,068 registered Florida voters, weighted based on demographics of active voters. St. Pete Polls results appear in polling indexes for major aggregators FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics.
Demings, an Orlando Representative to Congress, filed in June to challenge Rubio in next year’s high-profile Senate race. While she faces other Democrats, her entry into the race largely cleared the primary of other major names.
The poll shows Rubio’s edge comes from holding the Republican base together better than his opponent. He wins over 82% of all Republicans surveyed and 15% of Democrats. Meanwhile, Demings holds the support of over 79% of Democrats and attracts support of under 14% of GOP voters.
Swing voters remain tightly split, with just over 46% backing Rubio and just under 46% going to Demings. More than 8% of those voters have yet to pick a favorite.
Of note, Demings, if elected, would be only the second woman to serve Florida in the Senate; Republican Paula Hawkins served one term but lost reelection in 1988. Yet Rubio holds a significant edge among female voters. Almost half of those surveyed back the incumbent’s reelection while only 44% support Demings.
On the other hand, the male Senator also loses his own demographic, with 48% of men favoring Demings and under 47% sticking with the incumbent.
The Cuban-American Rubio wins over 49% of the Hispanic vote to Demings’ 45%, a critical bloc in the swingy Sunshine State that often turns on the sentiments of South Florida’s culturally diverse voters.
Demings, who would be Florida’s first Black Senator, holds almost 80% of the support of Black voters to Rubio’s 15%. All other racial demographic groups favor the Republican.
Rubio last appeared on the ballot in 2016, when he defeated another Democratic Congressman, Patrick Murphy, with 52% of the vote.