Dozens of Florida's most experienced political hands are closely divided on whether Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney will win Florida's critical presidential primary Tuesday.
But the latest Florida Insider Poll by the Tampa Bay Times did draw overwhelming consensus on several questions:
• More than three-quarters of the more than 100 people who participated in the poll think Romney ultimately will win the GOP nomination, regardless of what happens in Florida.
• Nearly 9 out of 10 surveyed think Romney would be the strongest general election candidate against President Barack Obama.
• And in a sign of the toll the presidential primary has taken on the field, more than 7 in 10 think Obama will be re-elected in November — including half of the Republican insiders and every Democrat.
Our periodic Florida Insider Poll is a measure of conventional wisdom among political elites — fundraisers, campaign operatives, lobbyists and the like — and is not scientific. Romney has much of Florida's Republican political establishment in his corner, so it's not surprising most insiders view him as the strongest general election candidate.
What is striking is the growing pessimism among the Republican insiders about beating Obama.
The last time we asked for general election predictions, in November, 9 percent of Democrats said Obama would lose, and 29 percent of Republicans said Obama will win. Now, 100 percent of Democrats predict a second term for Obama and 49 percent of Republicans do.
The latest survey, conducted Wednesday and Thursday, included 41 Democrats, 57 Republicans, and six unaffiliated voters.
Overall, 52 percent predict Romney will win Tuesday, and 48 percent predict Gingrich. Among Republicans, 54 percent predict Romney and 42 percent Gingrich. But we should note that most of our participants responded Wednesday, before several polls pointed to Romney pulling ahead in Florida.
Here's who participated: David Browning, Jeffrey Garcia, Kirk Pepper, Towson Fraser, Robert Levy, Gus Corbella, Robert coker,Robin Rorapaugh, Justin Day, Rich Heffley, Mark Ferrulo, Ben Pollara, Eric Jotkoff, Todd Harris, Adam Goodman, Brian Crowley, Kristy Campbell, Kathy Mears, Jamie Miller, Dylan Sumner, Monica Russo, Ron Greenstein, Donald Hinkle, Andy Ford, Kirk Wagar, Tyler Hudson, Rockie Pennington, Stephen Shiver, Todd Wilder, Jackie Lee, Chris Ingram, Ryan Tyson, Henry Kelley, Al Cardenas, Meredith O"Rourke, Jamie Wilson, Marc Reichelderfer, Cory Tilley, Cynthia Henderson, Kirk Fordham, Steven Schale, Dave Karvelas, Ron Sachs, Christian Ulvert, Greg Turbeville, Richard Swann, Abel Harding, Dan Gelber, Sandy Saffley, Dave Aronberg, Scott Arceneaux, William Helmich, Richard Gentry, Joe Perry, David Custin, Kathleen Shanahan, Dan McLaughlin, Andrew Gillum, Marty Fiorentino, Mel Sembler, John Rood, Jill Chamberlin, Cindy Graves, Arlene DiBenigno, Colleen Castille, Trey McCarley, Susie Wiles, Mark Gilbert, Sarah Rumpf, Darryl Paulson, Eric Johnson, Lucy Morgan, Bridget Nocco, Apryl Marie Fogel, Hussein Cumber, Kate Wallace, Bernie Campbell, Carlos Curbello, Ana Cruz, Andrew Weinstein, Rick Wilson, Bill McBride, David Johnson, Mike Hamby, Christina Johnson, Jim Rimes, Greg Truax, Joy Reid, Derek Newton, Damien Filer, Allan Bense, Brett Doster, Sally Bradshaw, John Stemberger, Kevin Cate, John Morgan, Slater Baylis, Dave Beattie, Nancy McGowan, Bud Shorstein, Peter Schorsch.