Florida's political establishment has lost its longstanding optimism that Adam Putnam will be the 2018 Republican nominee for governor.
Two months ago, more than 7 in 10 of the campaign operatives, lobbyists, money-raisers, political scientists and assorted other veterans of Florida politics predicted the agriculture commissioner would be the nominee. Even in July when many signs pointed to Donald Trump-anointed Ron DeSantis overtaking Putnam, more than 6 in 10 remained bullish on the red-haired pride of Bartow.
This week, 72 percent of the roughly 200 Florida Insiders surveyed predicted DeSantis will win the primary Tuesday and 28 percent predicted Putnam. In slightly better news for Putnam, only 60 percent of the Republican Insiders predicted DeSantis will win.
"Never underestimate the power of Trump in a GOP primary. His supporters are very dedicated. One year ago it looked like Adam Putnam was going to cruise to victory in the primary — high name ID among GOP voters, huge war chest, knowledgeable on FL issues and good ground game," one Republican said. "DeSantis had virtually no name recognition, no funds, did not understand FL issues and had no political infrastructure. One year later, the race has completely flipped with Putnam contributors 'hedging' their bets by contributing to DeSantis. Amazing turn of events."
Others said Putnam's grassroots campaigning — DeSantis has virtually no get-out-the-vote operation — should not be underestimated.
"Unless the president comes back to campaign for DeSantis, the momentum will continue to swing in Putnam's favor," said another Republican. "The message of "…we're not picking an apprentice — we're electing a governor" is resonating."
We allow anonymous answers in these non-scientific surveys to encourage honest answers from people, many of whom work with or for the candidates in question.
In the crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary, a whopping 79 percent expected former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee will be the nominee. Just 13 percent predicted Miami Beach businessman Philip Levine, 5 percent said Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, 2 percent Winter Park businessman Chris King and 1 percent Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene.
"On election night, Gwen Graham's first thank you call should be to Jeff Greene who — by simply entering the race — did more to knock down Philip Levine than anything else," said a Democrat.
"Philip Levine would be a better option to defeat DeSantis," said an Insider registered to neither major party. "He has proven to show he cares about the different groups comprise Florida due to the diversity of his staff and his engagement strategy. Graham has not but will be picked because of her association with her father and because she is a woman. If she wins, she definitely will need to change her PR strategy, do bilingual ads and stop presenting herself as a PTA mom. She is an attorney. She must show her capacity to lead. The way it is looking, it seems like she is doing the same Alex Sink Strategy, and we saw how that ended."
"If Graham and DeSantis win, the obvious takeaway is that the Dems can field an establishment candidate and win and the Republicans can't. This means the Dems have managed to muster enough of an immune response to shut down the Bernie contagion (in Gillum, et al.) while Republicans are still spiking the Trump fever of grievance and nativism. If so, that bodes well for Graham in the general," said an Insider registered to neither major party. "Tallahassee needs to gird its loins for possibly the first gubernatorial party flip in two decades."
The Florida Insider predictions for other races.
Bill Nelson vs Rick Scott for U.S. Senate: 61 percent predicted Scott, 39 percent Nelson.
From a Republican: "Rick Scott continues to outperform Bill Nelson. Of all the races on the docket, none relies upon Trump's public image and the national economy more. Nelson has been a do nothing for too long, when compared to Rick Scott's performance as Governor of the State, the only thing that could weigh him down is a voter rebuttal of Trump."
From a Democrat: "Scott is screwed. He is a sitting two-term governor who has spent upwards of $40 million against a U.S. senator who has spent nothing, and he is still even or below water."
Republican attorney general nominee: Ashley Moody 62 percent, Frank White 36 percent.
Democratic attorney general nominee: Sean Shaw 89 percent, Ryan Torrens 3 percent.
Republican nominee for agriculture commissioner: Denise Grimsley 47 percent, Matt Caldwell 25 percent, Baxter Troutman 22 percent, Mike McCalister 1 percent.
Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner: Nikki Fried 75 percent, Jeff Porter 8 percent, Roy David Walker 5 percent.
This month's Florida Insiders included:
Sam Bell, Tom Alte, Jason Altmire, Gayle Andrews, Donna Arduin, Dave Aronberg, Rick Asnani, Jon M. Ausman, Roger Austin, Tim Baker, Ryan Banfill, Christina Barker, Michael Barnett, Scott Barnhart, Rodney Barreto, Ashley Bauman, Slater Bayliss, David Beattie, Geoffrey Becker, Wayne Bertsch, Ron Bilbao, David Bishop, Barney Bishop III, Greg Blair, Katie Bohnett, Rick Boylan, Paul Bradshaw, Matt Bryan, Bill Bunkley, Alex Burgos, Bernie Campbell, Kristy Campbell, Chip Case, Betty Castor, Chris Cate, Kevin Cate, Mitch Ceasar, Jill Chamberlin, Jim Cherry, Alan Clendenin, Brad Coker, Gus Corbella, Brian Crowley, Ana Cruz, Husein Cumber, Fred Cunningham, Jim Davis, Richard Denapoli, Nelson Diax, Pablo Diaz, Victor Dimaio, Doc Dockery, Paula Dockery, Brett Doster, John Dowless, Bob Doyle, Ryan Duffy, Pete Dunbar, Barry Edwards, Eric Eikenberg, John Falconetti, Mike Fasano, Peter Feaman, Cesar Fernandez, Mark Ferrulo, Damien Filer, Terry Fleming, Mark Foley, Andy Ford, Kirk Fordham, Towson Fraser, John French, Jack Furnari, Josh Geise, Dan Gelber, Steve Geller, Julia Gill Woodward, Susan Glickman, Alma Gonzalez, Jose Gonzalez, Adam Goodman, Bob Graham, Ron Greenstein, Thomas Grigsby, Joe Gruters, Willy Guardiola, Mike Hamby, Marion Hammer, Chris Hand, Abel Harding, Jeff Hartley, Chris Hartline, Jack Hebert, Rich Heffley, Bill Helmich, Brad Herold, Max Herrle, Don Hinkle, Jim Horne, Brian Hughes, Matthew Isbell, Aubrey Jewett, Christina Johnson, David Johnson, Eric Johnson, Jeff Johnson, Stafford Jones, Eric Jotkoff, Frec Karlinsky, Joshua Karp, Henry Kelley, Omar Khan, Erik Kirk, Chris Kise, John Konkus, Chris Korge, Jeff Kottkamp, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Stephanie Kunkel, Bill Lee, Jackie Lee, Tom Lewis, Beth Leytham, Susan Macmanus, Jose Mallea, Al Maloof, Javier Manjarres, Roly Marante, William March, Beth Matuga, Brian May, Nancy Mcgowan, Clarence Mckee, Seth Mckee, Kathy Mears, Jamie Miller, Paul Mitchell, Pat Neal, Samuel Neimeiser, Meredith Orourke, Edie Ousley, Maurizio Passariello, Alex Patton, Darryl Paulson, Jorge Pedraza, Scott Peelen, Rockie Pennington, Kirk Pepper, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, Rachel Perrin Rogers, Joe Perry, Lisa Perry, Sean Phillippi, Gretchen Picotte, Ron Pierce, JC Planas, Bob Poe, Ben Pollara, Van Poole, David Ramba, David Rancourt, Susannah Randolph, Marc Reichelderfer, Nan Rich, George Riley, Jim Rimes, Franco Ripple, Jason Rosenberg, Jason Roth, Sarah Rumpf, Ron Sachs, Tom Scarritt, Tom Scherberger, April Schiff, Jack Seiler, Stephen Shiver, Alex Sink, Patrick Slevin, Dan Smith, John Stemberger, Alan Stonecipher, Richard Swann, Trey Traviesa, Frank Tsamoutales, Christian Ulvert, Jason Unger, Greg Ungru, Steven Vancore, Erin VanSickle , Ashley Walker, Nancy Watkins, Kevin Watson, Screven Watson, John Wehrung, Gerald Wester, Gregory Wilson, Jamie Wilson, Rick Wilson, Eric Zichella.