It’s one thing to be the underdog, and it’s an entirely different thing to be completely underwater, which is where Carlos Beruff is finding himself after deciding to fight it out in the Florida Republican Senate primary against Sen. Marco Rubio. After the other top contenders all dropped out of the race to support Rubio and polling showed the Senator to be the overwhelming favorite to keep his seat, a brand new poll shows just how brutal the numbers are for Beruff.
The new poll, conducted by Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) on June 27 and 28, included a sample of 750 likely Republican voters, 33% of whom were reached by cell phone. When asked about the GOP Senate candidates, with a margin of error of +/-4%, 71% said they would vote for Rubio, 7% for Beruff, 18% undecided, and 2% each for Ernie Rivera and Dwight Mark Anthony Young, the two long-shot candidates whose names will also be on the ballot.
This is in line with two other recent polls of the race, which also showed Rubio with an overwhelming lead. Data Targeting polled 606 voters on June 21 and 22, who said 73% preferred Rubio, 6% Beruff, and 6% Todd Wilcox (who had yet to drop out), with a margin of error of +/-4.4%. Bay News 9/News 13 polled 555 likely primary voters on June 25 through 27, and 63% picked Rubio, 13% undecided, 11% Beruff, 10% Young, and 2% Rivera, with a margin of error of +/-4.1%.
The four point margin of error in the AIF poll means that Beruff’s 7% is within one point of the margin of error of two guys who have near-zero name recognition and fundraising, and as Peter Schorsch pointed out earlier this week, it’s incredibly embarrassing that Beruff is polling just barely ahead of Young, who Schorsch mockingly referred to as a “tomato can.”
The AIF polling memo contains more bad news for Beruff, who has been trying to position himself as a Donald Trump-like outsider challenging the political establishment. As AIF’s Vice President of Operations Ryan Tyson explained, they took steps to factor into their sample the Trump voters who normally don’t vote in GOP primaries, just in the general, but did turn out to vote for Trump in the presidential primary:
We saw the surge of non-usual primary voters in the March 15th presidential preference primary here in Florida from the moment the first absentees began to come in. When the dust settled and we were able to analyze the final electorate, we found that voters with little to no history of voting in regular Republican primaries (0-20 primary voter score) made up 1.2 million of 2.3 million Republicans that voted. This turnout dwarfed the last two regular Republican primaries where 1.2 million and 1 million Republicans showed up for the regular 2012 and 2014 primaries. These “Trump” voters as we generically describe them were not necessarily new in one sense because though they had a lower tendency to vote in a primary, they had very high probabilities to vote in general elections. Because this year’s presidential primaries were far from normal, we included these non-usual primary voters in our sample select and let them identify their intention to vote in the upcoming primary in August (called a likely-voter trigger).
In other words, even if Beruff can maximize his outreach and appeal to the Republican voters who supported Trump, that won’t move the needle enough for him to overcome Rubio’s substantial lead.
What’s clearly happened is that supporters of the other Republicans who dropped out of the Senate race — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, and Todd Wilcox — have done as those candidates have encouraged them to do and largely rallied around Rubio. An AIF poll on April 26 through 29 had Rubio at 50%, Jolly 8%, Wilcox 6%, Beruff 5%, DeSantis 4%, Lopez-Cantera 3%, and 26% undecided.
Beruff has already spent several million on TV ads blanketing the state, and had pledged to spend an additional $15 million in the primary. With only two months left in the primary, and absentee ballots dropping in the mail within weeks, one has to ask if even $15 billion could change Beruff’s luck.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.