A new poll shows Gov. Rick Scott ahead of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in what is expected to be one of the nation’s most important U.S. Senate races this year.
St. Leo University, which is located in Pasco County, released a poll showing Scott taking 42 percent while Nelson pulls 35 percent while 15 percent are not sure and 9 percent of voters back other candidates. Most recent polls have shown a closer race.
Scott does well with Florida voters, according to the poll with 60 percent of those surveyed seeing him as favorable while 34 percent view him in an unfavorable light and 6 percent are not sure of him after his two terms as governor.
Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, weighed in on the race on Wednesday.
“It's no surprise that Rick Scott is doing so well in a head-to-head poll at this moment, given how popular he is in the state.” Orlando said. “As we get closer to the election however, Bill Nelson and the Democratic Party will attempt to tie Rick Scott with Donald Trump and nationalize the race. Scott is more popular than Trump in the state, so the question will be if he can run as his own man or be weighed down by the top of the Republican Party."
While Scott has yet to formally enter the race, the poll shows the governor with a commanding lead for the Republican nomination as 59 percent of Republicans surveyed back him in the Senate race while 6 percent prefer Augustus Invictus, a former attorney who ran for the U.S. Senate as a Libertarian in 2016. Invictus garnered national attention for speaking at the “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia back in August. Marcia Thorne pulls 1 percent while 25 percent are undecided and 9 percent prefer other candidates.
The poll sampled opinions of 500 Florida respondents. The survey was conducted February 18 through February 24, 2018. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll has a +/- 4.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level on a composite basis.