In the crowded GOP field, Bush leads the second-place Rubio 28 to 16 percent in their home state, according to Mason Dixon Polling & Research’s survey. In Mason-Dixon’s poll three months ago, Rubio was essentially tied with Bush 31 to 30 percent.
Rubio’s 15 percentage-point drop coincides with the rise of Gov. Scott Walker, who’s now in third place with 13 percent – an 11 point increase for the Wisconsin governor since the April survey.
“And the center of the GOP political universe of late — Donald Trump — is in fourth with 11 percent,” Mason Dixon pollster Brad Coker said in a written analysis.
“This is the first Florida poll taken entirely since Trump’s remarks regarding John McCain’s Vietnam War service. His 11% showing in Florida is far below his support in recent national polls. This could be the result of the home state advantage of both Bush and Rubio,” Coker wrote. “However, the fact that Walker has slipped ahead of him may be a stronger sign that his candidacy is fading. Furthermore, there is a clear ceiling that Trump has among Florida Republicans. When asked if they are considering a vote for Trump, a large majority (58%) said they were not. Only 27% gave an indication that Trump was under their serious consideration.”
All the other Republican candidates are polling in the single digits.
The Democratic primary isn’t much of a race at all. Hillary Clinton leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 58 to 17 percent. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley received just 2 percent support in the poll, with former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb registering no support. In that primary, 23 percent are undecided.
In the more-contested GOP primary, 13 percent are undecided, a decrease of 4 points since April. Because the number of undecided voters didn’t shrink much while Rubio’s support plummeted, he could have lost voters to Walker and Trump, who wasn’t named in the last survey. Bush’s 2-point drop since April is statistically insignificant, indicating his support has essentially remained stable.
This is the second troubling poll for Rubio this week. On Sunday, a Bendixen & Amandi International poll of Republican voters in Miami-Dade County – Florida’s most populous and the home base of the two GOP frontrunners – showed Bush ahead of Rubio 35 to 25 percent. That poll was underwritten by The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.
“Here’s what’s really shocking: Bush is leading Rubio 43 percent to 31 percent among Cuban-American Republicans in Miami-Dade,” pollster Fernand Amandi told POLITICO. “Marco is Cuban-American. Jeb isn’t. That’s a real serious problem for Rubio.”
The Bendixen & Amandi survey polled 250 Republicans in the county. Mason Dixon surveyed 500 statewide. Of the Mason-Dixon respondents, 64 were Hispanic and they supported Bush over Rubio 40 to 30 percent. In the last Mason-Dixon poll, Rubio was up 40 to 20 percent over Bush among Hispanics. Factoring in Bush’s rise and Rubio’s fall, the numbers indicate Hispanic support has shifted 32 percentage points in Bush’s favor. Coker cautioned that the margin of error for this sub-sample was high, 13 percent. The overall error-margin for the statewide poll is 4 percent.
Bush’s support among Florida, Miami-Dade and Hispanic Republicans isn’t too surprising because, as a former popular governor, he has strong name ID and broad support among financial and political leaders in the state. The bilingual Bush has remained a sought-after figure on the campaign trail for Florida Republicans for years, thereby keeping his name in circulation.
Bush also leads Rubio and all others in the Sunshine State money race. Of the $11.4 million in campaign contributions Bush received in the just-ended quarter, $2.6 million came from Florida. Rubio raised a total of $8.9 million, $1.9 million of which came from Florida. Rubio has more money in his campaign bank account, but Jeb has far more financial support from now-independent third-party political committees. In total dollars raised between the committees and the campaigns, Bush leads Rubio $119 million to $45.2 million.
While Rubio has kept a relatively low profile since his announcement, Bush began barnstorming early states after he officially entered the race in mid-June. Unlike Rubio, Bush has numerous well-publicized town-hall events and frequently takes questions from scrums of reporters and voters. Bush has also established himself as the anti-Trump after the New York billionaire (a part-time Florida resident) made disparaging remarks about illegal Mexican immigrants and Bush’s wife, the Mexican-born Columba Bush.
Bush’s advantage in money and popularity are no surprise to Rubio’s top supporters, who have deftly tried to set low expectations compared to the elder former governor. Rubio has enough money to survive and even thrive. And all sides know the race will change.
And it’s only July, 2015. Florida’s winner take-all primary is March 15.