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Florida Insiders see Philip Levine, Ron DeSantis gaining on Gwen Graham, Adam Putnam

Bill Nelson favored to beat Rick Scott for U.S. Senate
Rep. Ron DeSantis holds daughter Madison as he and his wife, Casey, pose for a photograph with President and Mrs. Trump. (Courtesy of the Ron DeSantis campaign)
Rep. Ron DeSantis holds daughter Madison as he and his wife, Casey, pose for a photograph with President and Mrs. Trump. (Courtesy of the Ron DeSantis campaign)
Published Feb. 26, 2018|Updated Feb. 26, 2018

Conventional wisdom among Florida elites heavily favors Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to be the Republican gubernatorial nominee. The perception of inevitability among the political establishment has significantly dropped since Fox News favorite Ron DeSantis jumped in, according to our latest unscientific Florida Insider Poll of more than 200 veteran Florida politicos.

Nearly 55 percent of the Insiders expect Putnam to be the nominee (a drop of 11 percentage points since an October Insider Poll), while 40 percent expect U.S. Rep. DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, to win the primary — a rise of 33 points since October, when he was still just hinting at running).

Just 5 percent expect Corcoran to win the nomination, compared to 17 percent four months ago.

"With Corcoran and DeSantis battling over the hard right of the Republican Party, it's hard to see how Putnam, with his ever-growing war chest, doesn't walk away with a relatively easy win," a Republican said.

We allow anonymity in the Florida Insider Poll to encourage frank answers from participants, many of whom are closely involved in the campaigns or legislative process and have business or personal connections to key players.

In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, an overwhelming 68 percent of Insiders expect former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham to win the nomination and 24 percent expect it to be Miami Beach businessman Philip Levine, who has spent millions on TV ads already. Just 8 percent expected Levine to be the nominee four months ago, though Orlando trial attorney was still in the mix as a possible contender.

Only 4 percent predicted Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and 2 percent Winter Park businessman Chris King.

"Bob Graham's daughter continues to mull along not really doing anything exciting.  She's raising a little money, scoring a point here or there, making a gaff every now and again, but largely being ignored by everyone in Florida.," a Republican said. "Gillum, despite getting a much needed shot in the arm thanks to Corcoran, is still desperate and running on fumes.  …Who is Chris King again?  I have a feeling that Levine will be turning on a machine very soon that will rapidly lay waste to the rest of the field."

"While I predicted Graham and Putnam would be their party's nominees, Levine and DeSantis might be tougher than originally thought, Levine because he can self-fund and DeSantis because he's appealing to the extreme Trump base," said an Insider registered to neither major party.

The Florida Insiders are not buying Gov. Rick Scott's assertions that he has not yet decided whether to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Ninety-six percent think he will run, but more than 57 percent expect Nelson to beat Scott.

Said one Republican: "2016 was the year of the angry, white forgotten rural voter. 2018 will be defined as, 'What did you do when your children were attacked and murdered.' This issue will define who wins the elections in 2018 in Florida."

This month's Insiders:

Tom Alte, Jason Altmire, Scott Arceneaux, Dave Aronberg, Jon M. Ausman, Roger Austin, Ryan Banfill, Christina Barker, Scott Barnhart, Patrick Baskette, Ashley Bauman, Alan Becker, Geoffrey Becker, Samuel Bell, Allan Bense, Wayne Bertsch, Ron Bilbao, Barney Bishop, David Bishop, Stephen Bittel, Greg Blair, Travis Blanton, Katie Bohnett, Anthony Bonna, Paul Bradshaw, Matt Bryan, Bob Buckhorn, Bill Bunkley, Brian Burgess, Alex Burgos, Dominic M. Calabro, Christian Cámara, Bernie Campbell, Al Cardenas, Chip Case, Betty Castor, Chris Cate, Kevin Cate, Jill Chamberlin, Jean Clements, Alan Clendenin, Brad Coker, Hunter Conrad, Gus Corbella, Matthew Corrigan, Jon Costello, Ana Cruz, Husein Cumber, Fred Cunningham, Jim Davis, Justin Day, Richard Denapoli, Nelson Diaz, Pablo Diaz, Victor DiMaio, Doc Dockery, Paula Dockery, Christopher Dorworth, Brett Doster, John Dowless, Ryan Duffy, Pete Dunbar, Barry Edwards, Eric Eikenberg, Mike Fasano, Cesar Fernandez, Mark Ferrulo, Damien Filer, Marty Fiorentino, Mark Foley, Kirk Fordham, Brian Franklin, Towson Fraser, Ellen Freidin, John French, Jack Furnari, Tom Gaitens, Eduardo Gamarra, Wayne Garcia, Josh Geise, Dan Gelber, Steve Geller, Julia Gill Woodward, Susan Glickman, Jose Gonzalez, Adam Goodman, Bob Graham, Brian Graham, Cindy Graves, Jennifer Green, Thomas Grigsby, Stephanie Grumman-Zauder, Joe Gruters, Ron Gunzburger, Mike Hamby, Marion Hammer, Chris Hand, Mike Hanna, Nick Hansen, Abel Harding, Jeff Hartley, Chris Hartline, Jack Hebert, Rich Heffley, Bill Helmich, Max Herrle, Jim Horne, Brian Hughes, Aubrey Jewett, Cherry Jim, Christina Johnson, David Johnson, Jeff Johnson, Stafford Jones, Eric Jotkoff, Doug Kaplan, Fred Karlinsky, Joshua Karp, Henry Kelley, Erik Kirk, Ron Klein, John Konkus, Jeff Kottkamp, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Stephanie Kunkel, Chip Lamarca, Zach Learner, Bill Lee, Jaxkie Lee, Alan Levine, Tom Lewis, Beth Leytham, Susan MacManus, Al Maloof, Javier Manjarres, Roly Marante, William March, Alberto Martinez, Beth Matuga, Darrick D. Mcghee, Nancy McGowan, Clarence McKee, Dan Mclaughlin, Kathy Mears, David Mica, Jamie Miller, Jon Mills, Paul Mitchell, Pat Neal, Samuel Neimeiser, Bridget Nocco, Edie Ousley, Darryl Paulson, Anthony Pedicini, Jorge Pedraza, Scott Peelen, Kirk Pepper, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, Rachel Perrin Rogers, Sean Phillippi, Gretchen Picotte, Ron Pierce, Bob Poe, Van Poole, Evan Power, David Ramba, Susannah Randolph, Marc Reichelderfer, Andrea Reilly, Nan Rich, George Riley, Jim Rimes, Franco Ripple, Jason Roth, Sarah Rumpf, Ron Sachs, April Salter, Joe Saunders, Tom Scarritt, Steve Schale, Tom Scherberger, April Schiff, Jack Seiler, Mel Sembler, Stephen Shiver, Bud Shorstein, Alex Sink, Patrick Slevin, Dan Smith, Susan Smith, Mac Stipanovich, Alan Stonecipher, Richard Swann, Nancy Texeira, Phillip Thompson, Karen Thurman, Cory Tilley, Tom Tillison, Greg C. Truax, Frank Tsamoutales, Christian Ulvert, Jason Unger, Karen Unger, Matthew Van Name, Ashley Walker, Peter Wallace, Nancy Watkins, Screven Watson, John Wehrung, Andrew Weinstein, Ryan Wiggins, Susie Wiles, Mike Williams, Gregory Wilson, Rick Wilson, Leslie Wimes, Jon Woodard, Jeff Wright, Zachariah Zachariah, Eric Zichella, Christian Ziegler, Mark Zubaly

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