Sen. Marco Rubio leads Democratic challenger Val Demings 50% to 42%, according to a poll from Center Street. But pollsters say there is still room for the race to change before Election Day.
“Marco’s still the favorite, but what’s interesting is that he’s sort of stalled out,” said Center Street Co-Founder Jacob Perry. “He has a motivated base of voters locked in, but he’s not making any new pitch to draw in new voters.”
The poll found Rubio at 50% among likely voters, but when polling all Florida voters, the race was closer, with Rubio at 45% and Demings at 40%.
The results when compared to the centrist organization’s last poll in March also showed Demings with the momentum, with a 13% swing in her favor among registered voters.
“The other issue is that there’s no constituency that’s particularly excited about Rubio,” Perry said. “Democrats obviously don’t like him, but neither do Trump Republicans. Val outraised him two to one, but also outspent him, and that spending really paid off in building her Awareness numbers.”
The poll comes out a day after Demings announced she raised $12.2 million in the second quarter of 2022. Crosstab data from the new survey suggests a field that’s still malleable and Demings gaining steam in the persuasion game.
“Demings demonstrates real strength in candidate Favorability, as she is +16 among those aware of her,” said Center Street Chief Analytics Officer Kurt Jetta. “But she still has gaps in Name Awareness, even with the 12-point improvement. She’ll need to build her 77% to 95% to be at parity with Rubio. With an opponent who has decent Favorability in his own right, Demings will need to outraise and outspend to have a chance to win in November.”
Of note, Demings leads in the poll among voters unaffiliated with either major party, with 37% going to her and 29% favoring Rubio. A full 33% of those independent voters remain undecided for the moment in a race where the challenger has proven she can out-fundraise the incumbent.
The poll also shows more Democrats on the fence than Republicans. About 10% of Democratic voters and 13% of those who voted for Democrat Joe Biden for President remain undecided. By comparison, just 7% of Republicans say they haven’t made up their mind, and the same goes for 10% of those who voted for Republican Donald Trump in 2020.
Jetta suggests the greatest opportunity for Demings may be that Rubio suffers from high unfavorable ratings. While 46% of voters view him favorably, 37% view him unfavorably. For Demings, 42% view her favorably but just 26% view her unfavorably. Moreover, 27% of voters have a “very unfavorable” view of Rubio, while only 15% say the same of Demings.
Far more voters register no opinion about Demings than Rubio. About 32% of voters are neutral about the Democrat. Just 17% say the same of the Republican. That at least leaves an opportunity to bring more people to Demings’ camp as the election draws closer.
Center Street dedicates itself to fighting candidates who encourage tribalism, and co-founder Perry was previously a Republican strategist based in Tallahassee who worked with Florida politicians.