For Republicans in Miami-Dade County, the only place in the country that can boast two local entries in the 2016 presidential race, one favorite son is more favorite than the other, a new poll shows.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush leads U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio 35-25 percent among registered GOP voters, according to the public-opinion survey conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International for the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald. No other contender in the Republican field of 15 declared candidates cracked double digits in the poll of Miami-Dade, the most populous county in the nation’s largest swing state.
Perhaps the most surprising finding in the poll is that Bush is more popular than Rubio even among Cuban-American Republicans, by 43-31 percent — even though Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants. The other Cuban American in the race, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, drew 7 percent support (so did “Undecided”).
“In spite of the fact that Jeb enjoys honorary Cuban status, he does that much better than the person who would be the first potential Cuban-American president of the United States,” pollster Fernand Amandi said. “It could be a very difficult number for Marco. When he can’t win over the heart of his base, what does that mean for his prospects of winning the primary in Florida?”
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His Coral Gables firm polled 600 registered voters in English and Spanish between July 8-14. The survey has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points, though the margin is wider for the questions that broke out Republicans and Democrats (about 6 percentage points for each). So early in the race, the results should be treated as a glimpse of a contest very much in flux rather than a predictor of any results.
While Bush has been the most successful fundraiser by far in the GOP field, he has not significantly outpaced Rubio in their home county. Campaign-finance reports released last week show Rubio has held his own in Miami-Dade, nearly matching Bush’s local haul of $557,000. Rubio raked in $512,000.
Bush, at 62, is older than Rubio, 44. So are many Cuban-American voters. Younger ones have registered in higher numbers as Democrats or without party affiliation, making them ineligible to cast ballots in the Republican primary.
Dora Lorenzo, an 81-year-old Cuban-American Republican who lives near Hialeah, said she thinks Bush has the experience to tackle her top issue, public safety.
“He’s the only one who’s going to be strong, who’s going to calm things down a bit, because there’s a lot of crime in this country,” Lorenzo said in Spanish. Of Rubio, she added, “Of course, I like him, too. But I think he’s too much of a youngster.”
Rubio’s focus on foreign policy is what endears him to Malva Sanchez, 69, a Cuban-American Republican from Miami Lakes.
“He wants to change all the things that Obama has done, in Cuba, Iran and Iraq,” Sanchez said in Spanish. And Rubio will attract the Hispanic vote, she added. She likes Bush, too, but “it’s enough of a dynasty,” she said.
Among Democrats, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton garnered a staggering 77 percent support in the poll. Clinton, who defeated Barack Obama in Florida when she ran for president in 2008, has yet to hold a public event in the state, but she has hit up backers for cash, amassing $944,000 from Miami-Dade alone in the fundraising quarter that ended June 30. On her list of volunteer fundraisers, or “bundlers,” who have helped raise $100,000 or more since April 12 are six people from Miami-Dade and another five from Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“South Florida is Hillary Clinton country,” Amandi said.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has attracted large crowds in early states, drew 9 percent support — statistically tied with the 10 percent of respondents who said they were undecided. The other three Democratic candidates barely registered: Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb came in at 2 percent, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee drew 1 percent each.
The numbers were similarly low for some Republicans, with Bush and Rubio controlling the field. Nine percent of GOP respondents said they were undecided. Cruz and real-estate mogul Donald Trump polled at 6 percent; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 5 percent; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 3 percent each; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 2 percent, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 1 percent. Two percent of respondents chose “Other.”
Carson retired to West Palm Beach, Huckabee lives in Santa Rosa Beach in the Florida Panhandle, and Trump is a part-time West Palm Beach resident.
The dominance of Bush and Rubio in their home state has prompted chatter about other Republicans possibly bowing out of the Florida primary on March 15, 2016. Even if they don’t formally announce that they won’t compete, they could limit their appearances in the Sunshine State and let Rubio and Bush duke it out — assuming they’re both still in the race by then.
Amandi said Florida, a likely must-win for Republicans in the general election, is too important a prize for top contenders to sit out the primary.
“If any of the candidates gets hot in one of the early-primary states,” Amandi predicted, “even a second- or third-place finish in Florida could be seen as a win.”