An anomaly or a tide turning? Conventional wisdom shifting as primary election nears

Adam Putnam
Adam Putnam at Cabinet meeting in June

Florida’s race for governor has shifted in the polls over the past few months, but a growing consensus has pointed to a matchup between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Gwen Graham in November.

But new public opinion polls released this week suddenly shifted that narrative as the Aug. 28 primary grows near.

The biggest stunner was a SurveyUSA poll released on Wednesday that showed Republican Adam Putnam, the state’s Agriculture Commissioner, just two points behind Congressman DeSantis, 40%-38% (the plus/minus margin of error is 5.2%).

But that’s not all. Two other races where the cake seemed baked now appear to be in flux: The Democratic race for governor and attorney general.

In the Putnam-DeSantis contest, the latest poll is an absolute outlier but shouldn’t be dismissed, pundits say.

According to, Survey USA has historically been more on target than any national public pollster over the years, with an accuracy rate of 90 percent. That’s a better average than such highly respected polling firms as Quinnipiac, Mason-Dixon and Public Policy Polling.

DeSantis’ ascent in the polls has largely been attributed to his high exposure on Fox News and the endorsement of President Donald Trump, who campaigned for the North Florida U.S. Representative in Tampa late last month.

But Putnam is vastly outspending DeSantis, and Putnam’s direct mail is “much better” according to St. Petersburg-based political consultant Barry Edwards.

“Remember – Florida Republican voters are fairly center-right. It’s a center-right state,” says Edwards. “And DeSantis, the more you get to know him, he’s a lot further to the right. He’s a Trump Republican, but he’s not what Florida Republicans have been historically.”

But most Florida Republicans have become Trump Republicans over the past couple of years, as former governor Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio can attest to.

The narrow margin in the SurveyUSA poll is by far the closest public poll of the Republican race for governor in more than a month, when a Remington Research Survey showed DeSantis with a 17-point lead.

That poll was originally scoffed at by some observers as an outlier as well, but DeSantis has never trailed since then.

On the Democratic side, a new survey conducted by SEA Polling and Strategic Design released this week shows former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leading Graham by three points, 27%-24%, with Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum third at 15% and real estate developer Jeff Greene slumping to fourth at 13%.

Greene has been airing television ads up and down the state over the past few weeks bashing former U.S. Rep. Graham on the environment, and Levine for being too chummy with Trump.  But while that may help push down Graham’s numbers, Greene doesn’t seem to be benefiting from the negative advertising.

Equally interesting is a SurveyUSA poll that shows that the vast majority of voters in the race for Democratic attorney general are undecided in the contest between Tampa House Rep. Sean Shaw and Hillsborough County attorney Ryan Torrens.

That’s despite a massive fundraising edge on the part of Shaw, who has raised more than $1 million between his regular campaign and political action committee, whereas Torrens is virtually broke at the moment.

The poll shows Shaw at 15%, Torrens at 13%, and 68% undecided.

“Sean is going to have to spend money in this primary or he’s going to lose,” Edwards declares.

As one might imagine, Torrens says he’s ecstatic about the new poll.

“We always had a feeling that if we got in early and ran a grassroots campaign and pounded the pavement …and worked hard enough that it would really reap dividends at the end of the day and I think those polling results show that,” said Torrens, who says he has visited 64 of Florida’s 67 counties and would end up being in all of them by the time Election Day rolls around in two weeks.

As of Wednesday night, more than 700,000 people had voted already in Florida. Early voting began in some counties this past Monday and goes statewide on Saturday.


Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.


  1. JUDGES “MEDDLING”??? Only GOP could twist judges’ job description like that. Hopefully, soon GOP will be put out to pasture among the “cow flops”.

    Isn’t it time to start electing Adults?


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