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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Donald Trump can't lose Florida, but state politicos think he will



Barely a week after his last campaign rally on the I-4 corridor, Donald Trump is set to hold another tonight in Kissimmee as battleground state polling increasingly points to Florida as do-or-die state in the Republican's steadily narrowing path to the White House.

With states such as Colorado, Virginia and Pennsylvania tilting decidedly toward Hillary Clinton, Trump has virtually zero chance of winning the necessary 270 electoral votes without Florida's 29 in his column.

The good news for the Republican nominee? Even after a particularly rough patch and ongoing inflammatory rhetoric that includes his antagonizing Hispanic voters, feuding with the parents of a dead Iraq war hero, seemingly joking about assassinating Clinton and, in South Florida on Wednesday, calling President Barack Obama the founder of ISIS, he is competitive in the Sunshine State. Clinton leads in Florida by just 2.2 percentage points in the average of recent polls, though those don't reflect all his recent controversies.

The bad news for Trump? The political pros who know Florida politics best overwhelmingly think Trump will lose. Among more than 170 people surveyed for a Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll this week, three in four expected Clinton will win Florida.

"A lot of Republicans are as afraid of winning the presidential race as they are of losing it. As a result, more Republicans than people realize are going to skip the top of the ticket when they vote," a Republican said.

At the same, however, an even more overwhelming majority of the political consultants, fundraisers, academics and the like surveyed -- almost 80 percent -- expect Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will win re-election in November. Only 20 percent expect Democratic candidate Patrick Murphy to win, and only one person predicted Democrat Alan Grayson will be Florida's next U.S. senator. Grayson and Murphy are vying for the Democratic nomination on Aug. 30, while Rubio faces a primary challenge from Bradenton developer Carlos Beruff.

"Trump will lose by largest percentage since 1988, when Bush 41 defeated Dukakis by 22 points. Rubio will win by 5. Split tickets all over the peninsula," predicted one Republican.

Said another Democrat: "Marco Rubio is becoming the relief valve for Republicans to support after voting for someone other than Trump for president."

The unscientific Tampa Bay Times Insider Polls tend to reflect conventional wisdom among Florida's political establishment, rather than the sentiments of likely voters. Many of those surveyed are actively working for or supporting candidates we're asking about, and we allow participants to answer anonymously to encourage frank assessments.  

Two months ago, the Florida Insider Poll found nearly as much skepticism about Trump's Florida prospects as this week's poll, but doubts about the strength of Murphy's Senate campaign have grown considerably since then. In June, 56 percent predicted Rubio would win the Senate race and 44 percent said Murphy, who since then has faced negative publicity and questions about him inflating his resume.

"Even with the damage Marco has sustained he is a better, more experienced politician than anyone else in the race," a Democrat said. "Murphy has shown his inexperience lately in repsonding to resume attacks and not responding well."

Another Democrat: "Murphy needs to get past the primary so he can turn his full attention to Rubio. When that happens, Murphy can reclaim the narrative of defining Rubio and be on a path to create a major upset since many believe Rubio is going to handily win the race."

Rubio and Trump today are both scheduled to attend a “Rediscovering God in America” conference of Evangelical pastors and political activists in Orlando, hosted by a group that has fought gay rights initiatives. Critics have called their appearance inappropriate and offensive, coming two months after the mass shooting at Pulse, the gay nightclub nearby. Rubio has said it is merely a celebration of faith.

At 7 p.m. Trump is schedule to lead a rally in Kissimmee at the Silver Spurs Arena, which has a capacity of nearly 12,000. On Monday, Clinton held her own rally in St. Petersburg, filling The Coliseum with about 2,000 people.

The Florida Insiders in our latest survey:

Jason Altmire, Christian Ziegler, Jason Unger, Bill Lee, Alex Patton, Robert Wexler, Travis Blanton, Marc Reichelderfer, Beth Leytham, Ron Sachs, Kirk Pepper, Rodney Barreto, Rich Heffley, Darrick D. McGhee, Charles Dudley, Steve Vancore, Dean Cannon, Erich Zichella, Mac Stipanovich, Frank Torres, Rockie Pennington, Al Maloof, Stephen Bittel, Christian Ulvert, Tre Evers, Ron Pierce, Cory Tilley, Ron Gunzburger, Gretchen Picotte, April Salter, David Johnson, Matt Bryan, Eric Johnson, Bernie Campbell, Ana Navarro, Kathy Mears, Andrew Gillum, Mike Fasano, Alex Sink, Eric Jotkoff, David Beattie, Ellen Freidin, Zachariah Zachariah, Ann Herberger, Hussein Cumber, Nels Kingston, Scott Barnhart, Rich Ramos, Ben Pollara, Susie Wiles, Dan Gelber, David Bishop, Chip Case, Susan Smith, Jeff Johnson, Kevin Cate, Jack Furnari, Ralph Arza, Brian Franklin, Ron Bilbao, Stafford Jones, Jeff Hartley, Stephen Shiver, Geoffrey Becker, Karen Unger, Richard Gentry, John Dowless, Robert Watkins, Clarence McKee, Pat Neal, Eric Eikenberg, Pete Mitchell, Paula Dockey, Patrick Slevin, Doc Dockery, Jim Rimes, John Konkus, Mike Hamby, Joe Gruters, Wayne Bertsch, Susan Glickman, Betty Castor, Marion Hammer, Jon Ausman, Peter Antonacci, Susan Goldstein, Joshua Karp, Roly Marante, Doug Kaplan, Hayden Dempsey, Steve Schale, Jamie Miller, Rick Wilson, Justin Day, Amber Stoner, Barry Edwards, Monica Russo, Ken Jones, Andy Ford, Abel Harding, Matthew Isbell, Mark Ferrulo, Seth McKee, Jack Hebert, Van Poole, Mark Foley, Erik Kirk, John Morgan, Alan Becker, Frank Tsamatoules, Richard DeNapoli, Javier Manjerres, Oscar Anderson, Christian Camara, Stephanie Kunkel, Screven Watson, Ashley Walker, Sarah Rumpf, Darryl Paulson, Alan Stonecipher, Marty Fiorentino, Greg C. Truax, Josh Geise, Allan Bense, Bill Bunkley, Nancy McGowan, David Mica, Ron Greenstein, Steve Geller, Jackie Lee, Kirk Fordham, Kevin King, Peter Wallace, Steve Uhlfelder, Jim Cherry, Mike Hanna, Damien Filer, Dave Aronberg, Towson Fraser, Nan Rich, Brian Crowley, Roger Stone, April Schiff, Tony DiMatteo, Andrew Weinstein, Nick Hansen, Donna Arduin, Ryan Tyson, Erin VanSickle, Aubrey Jewett, Richard Swann, Jill Chamberlin, Brad Coker, Mel Sembler, Nikki Lowrey, Pablo Diaz, Jason Roth, Tom Tillison, Mark Zubaly, Greg Turbeville, Tom Scarritt, Fred Karlinsky, Henry Kelley, Gus Corbella, Alan Clendenin, Jeff Kottkamp, Andrea Reilly, Frank Mirabella, 

[Last modified: Thursday, August 11, 2016 2:35pm]


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