President Barack Obama's poll numbers are grim, the economy is in the tank, and Republicans appear much more energized than four years ago. So we were a bit surprised by the results of our latest Florida Insider Poll taken one year before the election.
Among more than 100 of Florida's most plugged-in politicos, Democrats are more optimistic than Republicans about winning the White House next year. Nine percent of Democrats surveyed said they expect Obama to lose the election — and only if Mitt Romney is the GOP nominee — while nearly 29 percent of the Republicans predict Obama will win.
The Insider Poll relies on Florida's savviest politicos, including top campaign consultants, lobbyists, fundraisers and activists. One hundred fourteen people participated: 63 Republicans, 44 Democrats and seven independents.
The Democrats clearly fear Romney more than the other GOP prospects. More than one in three say Romney would beat Obama in Florida (even though several of them said the president would still win the national election without Florida), while only two Democrats said Rick Perry would beat Obama in Florida and just one Democrat said Herman Cain would win Florida's 29 electoral votes.
Among the Republicans, 49 said Romney would win Florida next November, 27 said Perry would beat Obama, and 19 said Cain. We did not ask about other Republican contenders far behind in the polls.
Romney is also the clear favorite to win Florida's Jan. 31 primary, with 82 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Republicans and all the independents predicting the former Massachusetts governor will come out on top. Four Democrats and three Republicans said Perry will win the primary, while Cain was the choice of three Democrats and six Republicans. Two Republicans predicted Newt Gingrich will win Florida in January and one predicted Jon Huntsman.
Reasons for the Florida Republicans to be slightly more pessimistic about the GOP's chances next year? Insiders cited the power of the incumbency, a nominee damaged by the primary, and expectations that Romney would be relatively weak among Hispanic voters.
The list of the 114 survey participants can be found on The Buzz blog: tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics.
Iorio talks book, 2014
Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio is on Political Connections on Bay News 9 today talking about her new book, Straightforward: Ways to Live and Lead, and doing her best to avoid questions about running for governor in 2014. She does not rule it out. Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Huntsman is in town
Huntsman is expected for a fundraising reception in Dunedin this afternoon at the home of Bruce and Deidra Living-ston, the parents of his son-in-law.
Rubio could seal deal
Why do Republicans want U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on the presidential ticket? Fresh evidence came last week from a Suffolk University poll. If Rubio were a running mate, the Republican presidential candidate would secure 46 percent of the vote in Florida to President Barack Obama's 41 percent.
"We'll never know, will we?" Rubio responded, dismissing the VP chatter. "It's all very interesting, but I'm going to serve in the U.S. Senate."
The poll also asked voters about the controversy over Rubio's telling of his parents' immigration from Cuba. (They came to Miami before Fidel Castro took over, not after as his website said.) Forty-one percent of voters said Rubio exaggerated the story, while 26 percent said he told the truth.
Poll: Scott, Sink even
More bad polling news for Gov. Rick Scott: That same Suffolk University poll found just 26 percent of Florida voters rated his performance as "positive and productive," while 37 percent rated it "negative and damaging."
Even worse news for former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink: Despite Scott's lousy numbers, Suffolk found she was essentially tied with Scott, with 37 percent saying they would vote for her and 36 percent for Scott.
Constance Humburg and Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz. Follow Adam Smith on Twitter at @adamsmithtimes.