With two and a half months until the primaries at the end of August, Florida Republicans and Democrats remain undecided on who they want to see replace term-limited Gov. Rick Scott.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute released a poll of Florida voters on Tuesday showing majorities of both Republicans and Democrats are still not behind any of the major candidates.
On the Republican side, 44 percent of GOP voters are undecided while 35 percent support state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and 13 percent back U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. Other candidates, including Bob White who leads the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, were not listed in the poll but it shows 9 percent of Florida Republicans back other candidates for the GOP nomination.
The poll was taken before recent revelations that an employee at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which Putnam leads, failed to do all required background checks on applicants for concealed carry permits.
Frank Orlando, the director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and a political scientist at that university, said, despite that news, Putnam is in good shape to win the primary.
"While a lot of voters remain undecided, Adam Putnam seems to be gaining momentum,” Orlando said on Wednesday. “He has been in the news a lot lately, but the race is his to lose. DeSantis hasn't been able to turn this race into the 2016 primary in the state where he plays the role of Donald Trump and Putnam is in the Marco Rubio role.
“DeSantis has ground to make up in the next few months,” Orlando added.
Over on the other side of the aisle, 47 percent of Florida Democrats remain undecided with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine both claiming 14 percent each. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum places third with 10 percent followed by Orlando businessman Chris King with 6 percent while 9 percent of Florida Democrats back other candidates. Billionaire Jeff Greene, who entered the race right after this poll was conducted, was not included in the Democratic primary field.
“The Democratic race is still very open,” Orlando said. “Gwen Graham continues to rack up establishment support, such as the endorsement of the Florida Education Association (teachers’ union) last week. She is still being outspent by the Levine campaign. It remains to be seen whether his money will allow him to gain a foothold outside of his native South Florida.”
A large segment of Florida voters remain undecided when the top Republican and Democrats are matched up against each other. The poll finds Putnam takes 25 percent while Graham pulls 20 percent with the rest of those surveyed undecided or backing other candidates. Putnam does slightly worse when matched with Levine with 24 percent supporting the Republican and 20 percent backing the Democrat. Graham and Levine do better in the poll against DeSantis than they do against Putnam. Graham takes 22 percent while DeSantis gets 16 percent. Levine also takes 22 percent against DeSantis who gets 17 percent in that scenario. But, in all those scenarios, 43 to 49 percent of those surveyed are not sure and 11 to 13 percent say they back other candidates.
"It looks like Putnam has a small advantage over the top two Democrats whereas DeSantis is behind,” Orlando said. “This probably shows both that Putnam is better known and that Putnam is seen as the more moderate Republican in the race. He is less likely to ‘scare’ away moderate voters that may not like DeSantis receiving the Trump endorsement."
The poll of 506 Florida voters was taken from May 25-May 31 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent.
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