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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

U.S. Senate poll: Rubio clear favorite in primary, Democrats largely undecided



New internal poll results released this afternoon by a Republican super PAC show that almost two-thirds of Democrats remain undecided in that party's primary for Florida's U.S. Senate race, but incumbent Marco Rubio is -- unexpectedly -- an instant front-runner in the dwindling GOP field.

The Senate Leadership Fund, which is affiliated with Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC, commissioned polls in both primaries earlier this week -- before Rubio made his announcement Wednesday morning that he'd seek re-election.

The automated telephone surveys were conducted June 19-20 by Pop Polling.

Out of 530 registered Democrats surveyed, 62 percent said they were still undecided in the August primary contest, according to the polling memo. Among those who weren't, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, led U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, 19 percent to 15 percent. Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith had 5 percent support.

The poll of the Democratic field had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

On the Republican side, only three candidates' names were included in the survey: Rubio, Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox. (Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, of Ponte Vedra Beach, were not included in the poll; although, they didn't drop out of the race until earlier today after Rubio announced his decision.)

Rubio earned 57 percent support among the 487 registered Republicans surveyed, according to the polling memo. Beruff got 5 percent support and Wilcox got 4 percent support, while 34 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

The Republican survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Although the polls were from a partisan source, the strength of Rubio's candidacy reflected in the Senate Leadership Fund's results somewhat echo what the latest Quinnipiac University poll of the race showed when it was released early this morning.

Rubio fared well in both -- but the two polls can't be compared because the Q poll didn't survey each party primary. Rather, it looked at potential head-to-head general election match-ups in November. It signaled that Republicans' best shot to win the election would be with Rubio.

The Senate Leadership Fund's poll did not survey head-to-head general election possibilities, but the leader of the super PAC expressed confidence based on both the Q poll and its own internal polling.

"These numbers confirm that Marco Rubio is the Democrats’ worst nightmare in their dream of putting this Florida Senate seat in Hillary Clinton’s pocket," said Steven Law, former chief of staff to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and president of Senate Leadership Fund. "Not only is Rubio a clear favorite in the Republican primary, but the Democrats' primary is a dogfight between two scandal-tainted politicians, the resume-puffing Patrick Murphy and the unethical hedge fund manager Alan Grayson."

Both Grayson and Murphy have said they welcome Rubio's entry into the race; they're eager to take him on and confident in their prospects.

Florida's U.S. Senate race will be a grueling fight in the months ahead, because the seat could decide which party controls the Senate in 2017. The party primaries are Aug. 30.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 4:32pm]


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