Since the former presidential contender jumped back into the Senate race this summer (after swearing to voters that he wouldn't run), most analysts have predicted that Rubio would win his reelection bid in a landslide. But Quinnipiac's poll today, which comes hours after the pair debated on live TV last night, shows Rubio leading Murphy by a scant 49-47-point margin.
Rubio has let a fairly large lead tumble from his grasp: On October 5, he was leading Murphy 48-44.
In a release, Peter A. Brown, the poll's assistant director, said Donald Trump's flagging poll numbers (which are the political equivalent of one black hole eating a second black hole and becoming a mega black hole) are dragging down big-name Republicans along with him. Though Rubio has occasionally denounced Trump's conduct, he has insisted he will still vote for Trump.
"With Donald Trump's numbers slipping, and control of the U.S. Senate very much in play, a bevy of GOP Senate candidates find themselves in very tight races," Brown said. "For the most part, these Republican Senate candidates, including Marco Rubio
Despite that good polling news, Murphy's national funding seems to be drying up. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has canceled $8 million of the $10 million it planned to spend on ads supporting Murphy. A separate Democratic group, the Senate Majority PAC, has also nixed $6 million of the $10.5 million it planned to spend on him.
Even without that support, Murphy is apparently still keeping Rubio on the ropes. In last night's debate, Rubio traded repeated barbs with Murphy over his support for Trump. According to Politico, Murphy attacked Rubio for "doubling down" on his support for the Republican nominee.
When moderators asked Rubio what would actually cause him to pull his support for Trump, he said he would do so only if Trump adopted Clinton's beliefs. He also said Clinton is a "horrifying choice" for president.
But apparently, Florida voters don't quite agree with him. According to Quinnipiac, Rubio is scoring higher than most Republican candidates among minority voters; otherwise, Brown says, Rubio might not be in the lead at all.
"Sen. Marco Rubio's upper hand in a too-close-to-call race is at least partially due to his scoring better than most GOP candidates among non-white voters," Brown wrote. "His third of the minority vote is largely due to his Cuban heritage. If he wins, that will be a lesson for the GOP going forward."
It also likely helps that Rubio's opponent isn't a particularly exciting candidate. Murphy is basically Bobby Newport from Parks and Recreation.
But given Rubio's propensity for flip-flopping, his support for Trump may very well wane along with his poll numbers.