An internal poll shows Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried holds the strongest favorability rating among Democrats running for Governor.
It also curiously found her leading among those voters reached by text in a head-to-head matchup with primary opponent Charlie Crist, though trailing him among voters reached by traditional landlines.
Pollsters found Fried with a +35 net favorable rating with voters, “the most popular candidate in the race.” By comparison, the poll showed Crist at +28 favorability, underwater with young and Latino voters, with -4 and -5 net unfavorable ratings with both demographics.
“If you’ve followed Florida long, you know both of those demographics are critical to closing the margin in a general election. We can’t afford to nominate someone even remotely negative in these demographics.” wrote Matthew Van Name, strategic manager for the Fried campaign, in a memo on the poll.
By comparison, Fried holds a +40 favorability rating among voters ages 18 to 45, and a +25 net positive showing with Latino voters.
The campaign did share numbers showing a significant divide among voters reached through different channels. Checking support in a primary matchup between Crist and Fried, pollsters found Fried leading with 46% to Crist’s 35%, with 19% undecided, but only among those voters reached through text message. Those reached by landline telephones, meanwhile, favored Crist with 54% to Fried’s 28%.
“Landlines tend to skew heavily older, and this is the demographic where Nikki needs the most work,” Van Name wrote. “While the 65+ voters who know Nikki view her just as favorably as Charlie Crist (+31), a full 51% of senior citizens can’t rate her at all.”
The campaign elected not to include state Sen. Annette Taddeo, the third major candidate in the race, in a primary matchup because she remains “virtually unknown to likely Democratic primary voters.” The favorability polling found Taddeo, the only prominent Hispanic candidate in the race, with a net -6 rating among Latino voters, as an example of her poor performance in the poll.
Of note, the results of the PPP poll differ from one released Tuesday from St. Pete Polls, commissioned for Florida Politics.
Van Name says the polling validates a belief the race between Fried and Crist “is essentially tied right now.”
“More importantly, we believe that if we hit even our lowest level of budget, we will have enough money to communicate about Nikki to the demographics where we need the most work, senior and Black voters, and run away with this primary with a huge amount of ‘underdog’ momentum into the general election,” Van Name writes.
The memo outlines “a clear pathway” to the nomination, if not a painless one. It suggests Crist has made missteps readily exploitable in the primary— ones that would later hurt his chances against GOP incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis should the Congressman become the party nominee.
“We also have the benefit of running on a message that can actually win in November. We’ve seen our opponent make a number of recent mistakes that would be huge liabilities — calling DeSantis voters ‘toothless,’ using COVID-19 proxy voting to skip work, and campaigning on a Nancy Pelosi endorsement,” Van Name writes.
“Meanwhile, Nikki is campaigning on lowering the cost of living and raising the standard of life. This is a message that we know is resonating — not just with Democrats, but with the critical and growing block of Non-Party-Affiliated voters we need to win, and never-Trump Republicans sick of culture wars.”