Poll: Pam Bondi Is GOP's Best Chance to Keep Rubio's Senate Seat

Pam Bondi during a rehabilitated panther release in 2014.
Pam Bondi during a rehabilitated panther release in 2014.
Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife

The state of the 2016 Florida senate race is in a precarious place. Sen. Marco Rubio currently holds the seat and there's no indication he wouldn't cruise to an easy re-election, but Rubio is hinting that he may indeed run for president instead that year. Most of Florida's political power players seem to think there's a very good chance he will, which would leave his Senate seat open after Rubio's single term. 

On Monday, Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy announced he'd run for the seat regardless of Rubio's decision, but it's unlikely anyone else of much importance will enter until Rubio officially exits — especially on the Republican side. However, a new poll shows that the Florida Republican who may be the party's biggest hope to keep the seat should Rubio's ambitions get the best of him is Attorney General Pam Bondi. 

Public Policy Polling ran a survey throwing around various different match ups involving Republicans Rubio, Bondi, State CFO Jeff Atwater, former Congressman Allen West, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Democrats Murphy and Rep. Alan Grayson.

The poll found that most match ups not involving Rubio are neck-and-neck right now. None of the others enjoy much statewide name recognition, that is except for Bondi. After all, she's been in the news constantly in her more than four years in office for things like trying to defend Florida's gay marriage ban and some of Gov. Rick Scott's crazier policies. She has 70 percent name recognition (and 38 percent view her favorably, compared to 32 percent who view her negatively). No one else has more than 60 percent name recognition. 

The poll shows Bondi would beat Murphy 45 to 41 percent. She'd beat Grayson 45 to 42 percent. Those aren't landslides, but they're better than other Republicans would do.

Lopez-Cantera would lose to both Murphy and Grayson. So would West. Atwater has a one-point lead over Grayson and a two-point lead over Murphy. (Rubio would scrub the floor with Grayson by nine points and Murphy by seven points). 

Alan Grayson speaking in front of the U.S. Capitol in 2009.
Alan Grayson speaking in front of the U.S. Capitol in 2009.
U.S. House

However, Bondi does have some problems. There's no guarantee she'd win a Republican primary. In a hypothetical primary race involving all four Republicans, West leads with 38 percent to Bondi's 25 percent. Atwater gets 12 percent and Lopez-Cantera gets 8 percent. Interestingly, West, a Tea Party favorite who became something a national joke to everyone but conservative Florida Republicans before being defeated by none other than Murphy, is no longer is a Florida resident. He hightailed it out of the state after his single term, so he won't be running anyhow. 

A Democratic primary race is much more uncertain however. In a head-to-head matchup, Grayson leads Murphy 22-21, with the majority being undecided. Grayson is seen as being one of Florida's most liberal Democratic congressmen. Murphy, a former Republican, is the state's most conservative Democratic representative. A primary between the two could end up being a fight for the soul of the Democratic party in a state that has elected Barack Obama twice but keeps putting up lukewarm moderate Democrats as candidates in its own statewide elections. 

By the by, not many people have mentioned Bondi as a serious candidate (well, we kind of suggested it), but it's clear she's in a good spot should she want to run. Republicans probably wouldn't mind having a woman near the top of their half of the ticket in a year when Hillary Clinton is widely expected to be the Democrats' presidential nominee either. 


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