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Florida Insider Poll: Who is the true conservative in the mix for governor?

And who won’t be in the race come 2018.
Nearly 41 percent of the Florida Insiders say of the likely Republican candidates for governor, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is the most "genuine conservative." [Associated Press (2016)]
Nearly 41 percent of the Florida Insiders say of the likely Republican candidates for governor, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is the most "genuine conservative." [Associated Press (2016)]
Published Aug. 30, 2017
Updated Aug. 30, 2017

As so often happens in Republican primaries, the race for Florida’s 2018 Republican gubernatorial nomination is shaping up as largely a question of which candidate or prospective candidate is the true conservative. But why wait 12 months to let Florida’s primary voters to decide, when we have our trusty Florida Insider Polls?

So this week we asked nearly 200 of Florida best informed political players whether the most “genuine conservative” is Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, state Sen. Jack Latvala, or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The clear winner of that title, with 41 percent, was DeSantis, followed by Corcoran, with 29 percent, Putnam with 24 percent and Latvala with 6 percent.

The latest Florida Insider Poll surveyed more than 190 veteran Florida political players on questions including which Republican prospect for governor in 2018 is the most genuinely conservative.
The latest Florida Insider Poll surveyed more than 190 veteran Florida political players on questions including which Republican prospect for governor in 2018 is the most genuinely conservative.

This is an unscientific poll, of course, but the Political Insiders -- campaign operatives, lobbyists, political scientists, money raisers, and activists -- do know these candidates far better than most voters. Defining “genuinely conservative” is also highly subjective.

” ‘Genuinely conservative’ depends on the definition of conservative these days,” said one Republican. “Someone who fits the traditional conservative Republican model is of yesteryear is Jack Latvala - someone who was a Republican back when it wasn’t cool or advantageous to be one. He’s willing to compromise to move the ball down the field. He’d govern similarly. Ron DeSantis (who’s never held a leadership role in govt) meets the new AFP-funded model of conservative - he may be philosophically conservative but that version accomplishes zilch legislatively.”

We also asked our insiders to predict what the primary fields will actually look like a year from now. Less than 17 percent doubted Corcoran and Latvala would be on the primary ballot, while nearly 40 percent doubted DeSantis would be. A whopping 99 percent expect Putnam to be on the ballot.

Fully half of our Insiders think another candidate will join the GOP field, while only one in five expect another major Democratic candidate for governor besides Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King, Philip Levine, or John Morgan will emerge. In fact, nearly two thirds expect Gillum -- whose campaign has been stymied by a pending FBI investigation into Tallahassee City Hall -- will be on the ballot in 2018, and nearly two thirds doubt Morgan -- who has yet to commit to running -- will end up on the ballot.

“Morgan has more to gain by people talking about him running than by actually entering the race,” a Republican The risk vs. reward for Morgan is lopsided. He has almost nothing to gain by running or actually winning. Can we talk about Gillum??? I’m shocked that the campaign is even still operational. The hits just keep on coming for that guy. His only benefit of remaining in the race is to decry all of the information being leaked, regarding the federal investigation, as political assaults.”

The Times allows people to weigh in anonymously for these surveys in order to encourage honest assessments.

More than seven in 10 expected King to stay in the race until the primary and three quarters expect that of Levine. Nearly 98 percent think Graham will be on the ballot.

This month’s 193 Insider Poll participants included 103 Republicans, 78 Democrats, and 12 people registered to neither major party. They are:

Steven Vancore; Matthew Isbell; Eric Zichella; Susie Wiles; Ron Sachs; Rich Heffley; Christian Camara; Zachariah Zachariah; Brett Doster; Pablo Diaz; Mike Colodny; Pete Dunbar;Kevin Cate; Alex Patton; Trey Traviesa; Susannah Randolph; Bill Lee; Ben Pollara; Patrick McQuillan; Matt Bryan; Doug Kaplan; Bob Poe; Ann Herberger; Jack Seiler; Anthony Bonna; John French; Mike Williams; Joe Saunders; Marc Reichelderfer; Phillip Thompson; Pat Neal; Jorge Pedraza; Ron Bilbao; Nelson Diaz; Chris Hartline; Bernie Campbell; Jason Unger; George Riley; Ryan Banfill; Mac Stipanovich; Ashley Walker; Dominic M. Calabro; javier manjarres; Kartk Krishnaiyer; Kirk Pepper; April Salter; Leslie Wimes; Christian Ulvert; Husein Cumber; stephen shiver; Gregory Wilson; Gus Corbella; Patrick Manteiga; Frank Tsamoutales; Jackie Lee; Mark Zubaly; Damien Filer; Ryan Duffy; Patrick Slevin; Chip Case; Towson Fraser; Stephanie Kunkel; Scott Simpson; Gretchen Picotte; Jon Costello; Chris Hand; Paul Mitchell; Fred Karlinsky; Wayne Garcia; Jamie Wilson; Evelyn Pérez-Verdia; Sarah Rumpf; Jennifer Green;Eric Jotkoff; David Ramba; Cindy Graves; Susan Glickman; Pat Roberts; Meredith O’Rourke; Scott Peelen; Roly Marante; Jamie Miller; Matthew Van Name; Stafford Jones; Alan` Stonecipher; Bill Bunkley; Jim Rimes; Justin Day; Clarence Mckee; Joe Gruters; Thomas Grigsby; Andy Ford; Aubrey Jewett; Jon Mills; Julia Gill Woodward; Greg C. Truax; Katie Bohnett; Jeff Johnson; Allan Bense; Rick Wilson; Bob Graham; Mark Ferrulo; Brad Coker; Sean Phillippi; john dowless; Dave Aronberg; Geoffrey Becker; Al Maloof; Barney Bishop; Tom Lewis; Franco Ripple; Victor DiMaio; barry edwards; Kim McDougal; pete mitchell; Sam Rashid; Cory Tilley; bridget nocco; Van Poole; Jim Davis; Tom Alte; Bill Helmich; Ashley Bauman; Jim Cherry; Mike Hamby; Ron Pierce; Jack Hebert; Richard Gentry; Alan Clendenin; Abel Harding; Jim Horne; Slater Bayliss; Marty Fiorentino; Bob Buckhorn; Steve Geller; Richard Swann; Nancy Texeira; Omar Khan; Jon Ausman; Screven Watson; Mike Hightower; Jean Clements; Joshua Karp; Jill Chamberlin; Jack Furnari; April Schiff; Erik Kirk; Mike Fasano; Fred Cunningham; David Rancourt; Cesar Fernandez; Jason Roth; Wayne Bertsch; Greg Blair; Betty Castor; Tom Scarritt; Evan Power; Richard DeNapoli; Alex Sink; Rick Boylan; Tim Baker; Nancy McGowan; Marion Hammer; John Wehrung; Darryl Paulson; Brian Goff; Scott Arceneaux; Tom Gaitens; Ana Cruz; Ron Gunzburger; Tony DiMatteo; David Mica; Rodney Barreto; Bud Shorstein; Scott Barnhart; Marty Fiorentino; Eddie Fernandez; Kathleen Shanahan; Beth Leytham; Donald Hinkle; Paula Dockery; Doc Dockery; Edie Ousley; Seth McKee; Nan Rich; Donna Arduin; Erin Isaac; Andrew Weinstein; Jose Gonzalez; Henry Kelley; Steve Schale