Former Howey-in-the-Hills state Rep. Anthony Sabatini may be trailing incumbent U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster in fundraising and favorability, but new polling suggests his support for term limits may help turn the tide.
The poll, commissioned by the nonpartisan advocacy group U.S. Term Limits, found Sabatini trailed Webster by 6 percentage points ahead of their clash in the GOP Primary next year for Florida’s 11th Congressional District.
After respondents learned Sabatini signed a pledge to back legislation limiting federal lawmakers to three House terms and two Senate terms, however, his support skyrocketed.
Upon receiving that information, 55% of respondents said they’d vote for Sabatini if the election were today. Just 18% said the same for Webster, who has served in elected office for all but three years since 1980.
According to U.S. Term Limits, Webster opposes term limits.
“What we are seeing here is the seismic impact and popularity of term limits in Florida,” the group’s Executive Director, Nick Tomboulides, said in a statement. “Sabatini has been an outspoken advocate for term limits. Most voters find that more appealing than someone who has clung to power since the Carter Administration.”
Pollster Scott Rasmussen’s public opinion firm RMG Research surveyed 300 likely Republican Primary voters in CD 11 Nov. 14-19. The survey sample was lightly weighted by gender, age and race, and the poll had a 5.7-percentage-point margin of error.
Tomboulides said Friday that U.S. Term Limits had no influence over the poll other than paying for it. Sabatini’s campaign was not involved in the poll either, he said.
“This was just one of many polls we’ve commissioned in competitive races across the country,” he told Florida Politics.
Support for term limits among Republican CD 11 voters is overwhelming across all age, race and educational groups into which RMG divided its answers. Overall support was 92%.
Eighty-six percent of Democrats nationwide back term limits for federal lawmakers as well, according to the Pew Research Center.
CD 11 respondents are less agreed on how long members of Congress should serve, though a clear majority (65%) agree lawmakers should leave the Capitol or switch chambers after six years or less.
Thirty-eight percent said Representatives shouldn’t serve more than a pair of two-year terms, while 22% said four terms is ideal and 21% listed three terms as the sweet spot.
If elected, U.S. Term Limits said, Sabatini would be the 12th Republican in Florida’s congressional delegation to have signed the term limits pledge. Others include U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Reps. Aaron Bean, Byron Donalds, Matt Gaetz and Anna Paulina Luna.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is the only Democrat to sign the pledge so far.
In the third quarter of 2023, Webster raised three times as much as Sabatini, an especially bellicose politician who has displayed an eagerness for friendly fire.
He labeled U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican, as a “fat RINO” during an unprovoked argument with the Nebraska Young Republicans. He also called U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Texas a “dumbass” and referred to U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as a “RINO fossil,” an intraparty insult he’s also applied to Webster, who is 74.
Sabatini, 35, served two terms in the Florida House. He left office last year after losing in the GOP Primary Cory Mills, who went on to win the seat representing Florida’s 7th Congressional District and also signed the term limits pledge.
During his tenure as a state lawmaker, Sabatini attracted ample ire from both sides of the political aisle. Notably in late 2021, former House Speaker Chris Sprowls relocated Sabatini’s office to the lowest floor of the Florida House building as a symbolic representation of his popularity among his peers.
Sabatini responded by calling Sprowls a “RINO and a “beta.”