Rubio is favorite to win Senate race for now, poll shows

Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to reporters in Doral last week after the deadly Dallas police shootings. The Florida Republican decided last month to seek re-election.
Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to reporters in Doral last week after the deadly Dallas police shootings. The Florida Republican decided last month to seek re-election. emichot@miamiherald.com

Marco Rubio’s lead over his Democratic rivals has grown into the double digits since he decided to run for reelection to the U.S. Senate, according to a new poll that shows — for now — the Republican incumbent isn’t being dragged down in Florida by presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The Quinnipiac University survey shows Rubio widening his advantage in potential head-to-head match-ups against Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. Rubio is ahead of Murphy by 13 points (50-37 percent) and of Grayson by 12 points (50-38 percent).

Last month, when Rubio still hadn’t made up his mind about running, he led Murphy by 7 points (47-40 percent) and Grayson by 8 points (48-40 percent). That’s a 6-point and 4-point swing, respectively, in Rubio’s favor.

Murphy, who has the high-profile backing of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other national Democrats, had a particularly difficult end of June. He was hit with a series of news reports indicating he had repeatedly inflated his résumé.

“Democrats made fun of Sen. Marco Rubio when he opted for a last-minute reelection bid in Florida, but he may be on the way to a last laugh, having quickly opened double-digit leads over both Democratic challengers,” Peter A. Brown, the poll’s director, said in a statement.

The poll didn’t measure Rubio’s popularity against his sole GOP primary rival, Carlos Beruff, who would lose to Murphy by 40-34 percent and be tied with Grayson at 38 percent.

Polls generally tighten in a general election, and Senate races may be affected by the presidential contest at the top of the ticket. The Florida primary is Aug. 30.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,015 Florida voters from June 30-July 11. The poll has an error margin of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points.

Rubio does better than either of the Democrats among both men and women, though his lead is wider with men. He’s also winning white and independent voters. He trails Murphy among Hispanic and black voters, but by a smaller margin than most Republicans. Rubio is Cuban-American.

“The breadth of Sen. Rubio’s lead against Rep. Patrick Murphy, who has the backing of the Democratic leadership, is impressive. He has a 19-point margin among independent voters and scores 10 points better among Republicans than Murphy does among Democrats,” Brown wrote.

He also polled Senate races in two other swing states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and found Republican candidates leading there too, though by somewhat smaller margins than Rubio.

“Many talking heads have suggested that with Donald Trump at the top of the GOP ticket, Republican Senate candidates might suffer,” Brown wrote. “But at least in these three key states, the Republican Senate candidates are running ahead of Trump and don’t seem to be hurt by their shared party label.”

Rubio’s current job approval rating as senator is split, 46-43 percent. His negatives are higher than for his Democratic counterpart who isn’t up for reelection this year, Sen. Bill Nelson, whom voters say is doing a good job by 42-29 percent. Public opinion of Gov. Rick Scott is divided 43-44 percent, which is slightly better than how he was doing last month.

President Obama’s job approval has taken a dive in Florida, with 44 percent saying he’s doing a good job and 53 percent saying he’s doing a bad job. In June, 54 percent approved of the president’s performance, compared to 42 percent who didn’t.