Ron DeSantis poll shows him leading Adam Putnam by 20

Negative ads don't seem effective in the GOP primary for governor
Ron DeSantis, left, gives a campaign speech with Donald Trump at the Florida State Fairgrounds . [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
Ron DeSantis, left, gives a campaign speech with Donald Trump at the Florida State Fairgrounds . [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
Published Aug. 8, 2018|Updated Aug. 8, 2018

The latest internal poll for Ron DeSantis offers excellent news not just for Ron DeSantis, but for those who loathe negative TV ads.

Despite Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam and his allies spending about $10 million on negative TV ads criticizing DeSantis, the northeast Florida Congressman has opened up a 20-point lead on the agriculture commissioner, the poll found. The Aug. 5-7 live call survey of 600 likely primary voters (MoE +/- 4%) by North Star Opinion Research showed Ron DeSantis reaching the key 50 percent mark for supporters, with 50 percent backing him and 30 percent supporting Agriculture Commissioner Putnam.

The poll was conducted after President Trump's widely publicized campaign rally for DeSantis in Tampa.

"We are leading in every media market, including Adam Putnam's home media market of Tampa," said DeSantis campaign manager Brad Herold hours before the two candidates hold their second televised debate.

All told, Herold said, Putnam and his allies have spent about $19 million on TV ads to date — at least half of them negative — while DeSantis' side has spent less than $10-million. That doesn't count DeSantis' constant appearances on Fox News, which is worth millions of dollars in exposure.

The only negative ads against Putnam came from a group called the Tenth Amendment Project, which spent less than $450,000 on commercials that only ran in Tampa Bay.

Despite that, the internal DeSantis poll found that 54 percent of likely primary voters had a favorable view of DeSantis and 13 percent unfavorable. Putnam's fav/unfav were 48/15.  Eighty-five percent of the Republican voters were familiar with DeSantis and 79 percent familiar with Putnam.

Asked how they responded to information they learned about the candidates — from TV ads, news accounts, the first debate, for example — 22 percent were more likely to support DeSantis and 13 percent less so. For Putnam, 13 percent were more likely and 10 percent less.

Herold sounded like the primary was already over. The favorable opinions of both candidates indicates how unified the party will be heading into the general election, he said. That would be a marked difference from the last tough Republican primary for governor, when many rank and file Republicans initially were angry about how Rick Scott had ripped apart then-Attorney General Bill McCollum in TV ads.

"This is going to be one of the least contentious Republican primaries in modern history," Herold said. "We've been able to run a completely positive race."