Donald Trump’s rough weeks on the campaign trail might have hurt at least one down-ballot Miami Republican, according to a new poll that shows U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s advantage has shrunk over her Democratic challenger, Scott Fuhrman.
Ros-Lehtinen, a veteran congresswoman, still tops Fuhrman, a first-time candidate, by 9 percentage points in the Frederick Polls survey commissioned by Fuhrman campaign. But her 41-32 percent lead is smaller than the 57-38 percent margin she held in September, when Frederick also polled the race — showing some voters have shifted from backing Ros-Lehtinen to feeling undecided.
When pollsters tested negative messages against Ros-Lehtinen, the contest flipped to 40-31 percent in Fuhrman’s favor.
Fuhrman’s campaign shared much of the poll and details about its demographics with the Miami Herald, but wouldn’t publicize the messages tested against Ros-Lehtinen. Fuhrman has aired a TV ad attacking the congresswoman as out of touch because of her hardline position on U.S. policy toward Cuba.
But a bigger reason behind the drop in Ros-Lehtinen’s support could be Trump. In the poll, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s popularity among voters in Ros-Lehtinen’s Democratic-leaning district also fell.
The Republican Rubio leads Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter by 49-39 percent, down from 57-38 percent in September. Murphy has also been blasting Rubio on the airwaves, though the incumbent senator continues to hold an advantage in all statewide polls.
“These numbers demonstrate that even an entrenched, longtime incumbent like Ros-Lehtinen is getting caught up in shifts in the local and national political landscape,” Democratic pollster Keith Frederick told the Herald in a statement. “She and Marco Rubio are both suffering from guilt by association with Trump, who is deeply unpopular in this majority Hispanic district, and voters are poised to send a clear message protest vote up and down the ticket that could well spell doom for Ros-Lehtinen, Rubio and every Miami Republican.”
Trump has been falling behind Hillary Clinton in national and Florida polls since the first presidential debate Sept. 26. Then came the release of a recording showing Trump making vulgar comments about forcing himself on women. That was followed by a string of women alleging Trump groped or kissed them against their will, which Trump has denied.
The Frederick poll showed Clinton crushing Trump in Ros-Lehtinen’s 27th congressional district by 52-33 percent, with 3 percent siding with Libertarian Gary Johnson and 14 percent undecided. Trump has lost 3 points from Frederick’s September poll, in which Clinton led by 51-36 percent.
Frederick surveyed 350 likely voters from Oct. 13-16. The poll’s error margin is plus-or-minus 5.3 percentage points. The 27th district spans North Bay Village to Cutler Bay.
Ros-Lehtinen, an early supporter of Jeb Bush and then Rubio for president, has never backed Trump and called on him to withdraw as the GOP nominee after the tape leak. Florida voters have seemed willing to cast split-ticket ballots in which they support Clinton for president but also Rubio for Senate — and Ros-Lehtinen for Congress.
Still, Ros-Lehtinen isn’t taking any risks. She’s campaigned in earnest, hammering Fuhrman in TV ads and fliers over his past brushes with the law, and promoting herself in positive ads that, among other things, highlight her concern about climate change, typically an issue played up by Democrats. In 2012, voters in her new district favored President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney by nearly 7 percentage points.
National Democrats don’t consider Ros-Lehtinen particularly vulnerable, as reflected in their lack of spending in the race. In contrast, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is cutting TV ads against a Ros-Lehtinen colleague, Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a freshman in an even more Democratic-leaning district who faces a challenge from former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.
A recent Garcia poll, taken before the first presidential debate and Trump tape revelation, showed the Curbelo-Garcia contest essentially tied.