Poll: Senate Races Tight in Florida and Ohio

Poll: Senate Races Tight in Florida and Ohio
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A new Quinnipiac University poll in key swing states finds that Democratic Senate candidates maintain a narrow edge in Ohio and Florida, while Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey leads in Pennsylvania – but in all three states, many voters say they do not know enough about the candidates to form an opinion.

In Florida, Democratic contenders Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson (both of whom are members of Congress) are slightly ahead of their Republican counterparts, Rep. Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, in the race to fill Marco Rubio’s Senate seat. Murphy (pictured) leads Lopez-Cantera, 40 percent-28 percent, and DeSantis, 39 percent-31 percent. Grayson is ahead of the prospective GOP opponents by 37 percent-31 percent and 38 percent-32 percent, respectively. However, 62 percent of voters had not heard enough about Grayson to form an opinion—and higher percentages of voters expressed uncertainty about the other Senate hopefuls.

DeSantis and Murphy have already declared their candidacies, and Lopez-Cantera is expected to announce at the July 15 Miami-Dade Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner. Grayson, who also plans to make a formal decision about whether to run in July, has been criticized by detractors as “too inflammatory and too liberal” to win the seat.

The Ohio race, where incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman is running for re-election, also looks close. Although Portman has more than double the support earned by Cincinnati City Council member P.G. Sittenfeld (a Democrat), he trails former Gov. Ted Strickland, 46 percent-40 percent. Both Democrat Strickland and Portman are regarded favorably by Ohioans, but a substantial proportion of those surveyed said they were too unfamiliar with either major candidate to form an opinion: 23 percent for Strickland, and 35 percent for Portman.

In Pennsylvania, Toomey commands an early lead over his likely rivals, former Rep. Joe Sestak and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. The Republican incumbent, who defeated Sestak in 2010, is now ahead of him, 47 percent-36 percent, and he leads Pawlowski, 52 percent-28 percent. Uncertainty about the candidates remains an important factor in this race, too: 28 percent have not heard enough about Toomey to form an opinion of him, and 58 and 85 percent feel the same way for Sestak and Pawlowski, respectively.

According to a Quinnipiac press release, the poll focused on Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania “because since 1960, no candidate has won the presidential race without taking at least two of these three states.”

The survey also found job approval for President Obama in the low 40s in all three states, as well as strong approval numbers for current officeholders in the polled states who are running for the Republican presidential nomination. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (who lags well behind other GOP presidential contenders at 1.8 percent in the RealClearPolitics average and has not formally declared his candidacy) has a 60 percent-30 percent job approval rating in the Buckeye State. Rubio has a 50 percent-38 percent approval rating; he stands at 10 percent in the RCP average.

The poll, conducted June 4-15, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points in Florida; plus or minus 2.8 percentage points in Ohio; and 3.2 percentage points in Pennsylvania.

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