TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Though Florida will have a closely watched U.S. Senate race next year, voters know little about the candidates who could wind up on the ballot, a new poll shows.
“The U.S. Senate candidates in Florida might want to put their pictures on milk cartons to increase their visibility,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, quipped in releasing the poll results Monday.
With incumbent Republican Marco Rubio running for president in 2016, the battle for his open Senate seat will draw heavy attention from state and national political parties and interest groups. At this early stage, the Quinnipiac poll gives Democrats a slight edge, but a broader conclusion is that neither party has a brand-name candidate.
Many Democratic leaders are backing two-term Congressman Patrick Murphy, who announced in March that he would run for the Senate seat. The Quinnipiac poll shows that 22 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Murphy and 6 percent have an unfavorable view, while 71 percent said they have not heard enough about him.
Similarly, two-term Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis announced in early May that he would seek to replace Rubio. The poll indicates 11 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of DeSantis and 7 percent have an unfavorable view, while 81 percent said they have not heard enough about him.
The poll of 1,147 Florida voters, conducted from June 4 to June 15, also measured support for two potential candidates — Republican Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Central Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson.
The Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post reported this weekend that Lopez-Cantera will announce his decision about the Senate race on July 15. Though Lopez-Cantera was on a winning ticket last year with Gov. Rick Scott, the Quinnipiac poll indicates he is little-known among voters. In the poll, 12 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Lopez-Cantera and 10 percent have an unfavorable view, while 77 percent said they have not heard enough about him.
Grayson, meanwhile, is best-known among the announced or potential candidates. The poll indicates 21 percent of voters have a favorable view of Grayson and 16 percent have an unfavorable view, while 62 percent haven’t heard enough about him.
While Quinnipiac measured support for Murphy, DeSantis, Lopez-Cantera and Grayson, other candidates also could run for the Senate seat next year. For example, the poll did not measure support for Republican Congressman Jeff Miller, who has been widely mentioned as a potential candidate.
But in hypothetical head-to-head races, the poll shows Murphy leading Lopez-Cantera by a margin of 40 percent to 28 percent and leading DeSantis by a margin of 39 percent to 31 percent. Similarly, it shows Grayson leading Lopez-Cantera by a margin of 37 percent to 31 percent and leading DeSantis by a margin of 38 percent to 32 percent.
“Democrats hold an early edge in the Sunshine State, but no candidate from either party has much visibility at this point,” Brown said in a prepared statement accompanying the poll results.
The Connecticut-based Quinnipiac frequently conducts polls in Florida and other states. That latest Florida poll has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.
The News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders contributed to this report.