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Florida Insider Poll: Joe Biden gives Democrats best chance to beat Trump

Florida’s Democratic primary is one year away. Here are some way-too-early predictions.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times Former Vice-President Joe Biden, center, gives a speech to a packed gymnasium while Florida Gubernatorial Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum, left, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson looks on during the Florida Democratic Party rally held at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida on Monday, October 22, 2018.
Published Mar. 14
Updated Mar. 14

Former Vice President Joe Biden has yet to declare he’s running for president but Florida politicos think he’ll eventually be the party’s nominee.

Florida’s presidential primary is one year from Sunday: March 17, 2020. With that in mind, the Tampa Bay Times asked nearly 200 campaign operatives, lobbyists, money-raisers, political scientists and other veterans of Florida politics for their way-too-early predictions about the Democratic field.

Seven in 10 believe Biden has the best chance of winning Florida’s primary. Only one of the other 13 candidates topped 10 percent: Kamala Harris, the California Senator.

It’s no surprise that the man with the most name recognition also has the best odds. But Insiders on both sides of the aisle think he also has something else going for him: Broad appeal.

Biden drew large crowds the last time he was in Florida to campaign for Andrew Gillum and Sen. Bill Nelson.

“Joe Biden is the ONLY option that the Democrats have to appeal to moderates, Independents and disaffected Republicans who are sick of Trump,” one Democrat wrote. “Joe Biden can appeal to every side of the spectrum and has the experience and qualifications that NO other Democrat running for the White House has having actually served as Vice President under the successful two term run of the last Democrat in the White House, Barack Obama.”

A Republican added: “The best candidate may not have emerged yet -- but Biden is the class of the field thus fa. A far left candidate will not be able to achieve that crossover appeal. Biden fits the bill perfectly -- theoretically, at this early point.”

A similar percentage of Insiders also said Biden gives Democrats their best chance at beating Trump. That includes in the fight for Florida’s 29 electoral college votes and for the whole ball of wax (though, those two things so often go hand-in-hand).

But Insiders are less confident Democratic voters will actually tap Biden to be the nominee. A plurality, 43 percent, say he’ll get the nod but 23 percent said it will go to Harris and 16 percent guessed it would be Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Next highest was former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who, like Biden, has yet to declare.

Why Harris? “The 2020 Presidential Primary is likely to emulate the 2018 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary, with Harris consolidating the minority vote to win with the plurality of the vote,” a Democrat said.

A Republican saw a more practical reason to pick Harris: “With California moving their primary up, Kamala Harris now has the inside track to win the Dem nomination. She should dominate the far left/progressive wing of the party. Being from California, Harris will be able to raise significant funds and pick up important delegates from the early California primary. She should be able to cobble together strong support from two large and important demographic groups within the Dem Party - progressive women and the African-American community.”

Strap yourselves in for a long primary. With so many candidates, 75 percent of Insiders think Florida’s primary will come into play, which is not always the case.

Who had no votes? Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

But, as many of the Insiders cautioned, it is way too early to predict with any certainty. Just look at 2016. At this point in the cycle, Jeb Bush was the favorite.

“Few Insiders would have predicted Trump as GOP nominee in March 2015,” on Republican pointed out.

Well, they couldn’t have. Because the Insider survey at the time didn’t even mention Trump.

The Times regularly surveys some of Florida’s campaign staff, party leaders, consultants, operatives, fundraisers, prognosticators and other well-known politicos. We allow participants to weigh-in anonymously to encourage honesty from people closely involved in the political process, but we always print the name of all the participants. This month’s Florida Insiders are:

John Wehrung , Erin Aebel, Tom Alte, Jason Altmire, Gayle Andrews, Scott Arceneaux, Dave Aronberg, Brad Ashwell, Rick Asnani, Jon M. Ausman, Roger Austin, Tim Baker, Brian Ballard, Ryan Banfill, Michael Barnett, Scott Barnhart, Ashley Bauman, Slater Bayliss, Slater Bayliss, David Beattiw, Geoffrey Becker, Alan Becker, Samuel Bell, Wayne Bertsch, Ron Bilbao, Barney Bishop III, Greg Blair, Katie Bohnett, Matt Bryan, Bob Buckhorn, Alex Burgos, Christian Camara, Tim Canova, Al Cardenas, Reggie Cardozo, Chip Case, Betty Castor, Jill Chamberlin, Jim Cherry, Alan Clendenin , Brad Coker, Hunter Conrad, Gus Corbella, Jon Costello, Brian Crowley, Husein Cumber, Darrick D. McGhee, Richard DeNapoli, Pablo Diaz, Lourdes Diaz, Arlene DiBenigno, Victor DiMaio, Tony DiMatteo, Michael Dobson , Paula Dockery, Doc Dockery, Bob Doyle, Ryan Duffy, Pete Dunbar, Barry Edwards, Eric Eikenberg, Mike Fasano, Peter Feaman, Mark Ferrulo, Damien Filer, Marty Fiorentino, Mark Foley, Kirk Fordham, Towson Fraser, Keith Frederick, Ellen Freidin, John French, Jack Furnari, Eduardo Gamarra, Stephen Gaskill, Richard Gentry, Julia Gill Woodward, Susan Glickman, Brian Goff, Susan Goldstein, Cindy Graves, Ron Greenstein, Stephanie Grutman, Ron Gunzburger, Mike Hamby, Marion Hammer, Chris Hand, Mike Hanna, Abel Harding, James Harris, Jack Hebert, Rich Heffley, Bill Helmich, Cynthia Henderson, Max Herrle, Mike Hightower, Mike Hightower , Don Hinkle, Aubrey Jewett, Jeff Johnson, Stafford Jones, Eric Jotkoff, Fred Karlinsky, Joshua Karp, Henry Kelley, Omar Khan, Jim Kitchens, Karl Koch, John Konkus, Chris Korge, Kartik Krishnaiyer, Bill Lee, Jackie Lee, Matt Lettelleir, Alan Levine, Jack Levine, Tom Lewis, Stephanie Lewis McClung, Jose Mallea, Roly Marante, william march, Beth Matuga, Beth Matuga, Kim McDougal, Nancy McGowan, Clarence McKee, Seth McKee, Kathy Mears, David Mica, Jon Mills, Frank Mirabella, Paul Mitchell, Travis Moore, Lucy Morgan, Pat Neal, Samuel Neimeiser, bridget nocco, Edie Ousley, Maurizio Passariello, Alex Patton, Darryl Paulson, Jorge Pedraza, Juan Penalosa, Kirk Pepper, Evelyn Pérez-Verdía, Joe Perry, Sean Phillippi, Gretchen Picotte, Ron Pierce, Van Poole, Evan Power, Marc Reichelderfer, Nan Rich, George Riley, Jim Rimes, Terrie Rizzo, Patrick Roberts, Jason Rosenberg, Sarah Rumpf, Ron Sachs, Tom Scarritt, Steve Schale, Tom Scherberger , April Schiff, Stephen Shiver, Bud Shorstein, Alex Sink, Patrick Slevin, Adam Smith, Daniel Smith, John Stemberger, Steve Uhlfelder, Alan Stonecipher, Phillip Thompson, Frank Tsamoutales , Jason Unger, Karen Unger, Matthew Van Name, Ashley Walker, Peter Wallace, Nancy Watkins, Robert Watkins, Screven Watson, Jonathan Webber, Andrew Weinstein, Lanny Wiles, Susie Wiles, Leslie Wimes, Jon Woodard, Zachariah Zachariah, Eric Zichella, Mark Zubaly.


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