Poll: Murphy leads Democratic gubernatorial primary with GOP running mate Jolly

- Mei 03, 2018

MIAMI — Former Rep. and 2016 Senate candidate Patrick Murphy would be tied for second if he jumped into Florida’s Democratic primary for governor, according to a new poll that shows he could nudge into first with one unorthodox move: Picking a Republican running mate.

The survey, conducted by Murphy’s former pollster and paid for by an unnamed Murphy supporter, bucks the commonly held notion that centrism — including a Murphy unity ticket with former Republican Rep. David Jolly — has no place in a partisan Democratic primary in Florida.

“There’s a lot of conventional wisdom that’s wrong,” said pollster Keith Frederick, whose firm surveyed 750 Florida Democrats from April 23–28. “What this poll shows is this idea — of a new approach to politics with a bipartisan team that works together to solve problems — has currency in the Democratic primary.”

But this and other polls show the Democratic primary is wide open, and no one has a commanding lead. Frederick’s poll shows that more than 40 percent of Democrats were undecided in a five-candidate race that included Murphy. The high number of undecided voters, as seen in other polls, and a lackluster debate of the Democratic candidates last month left some of Murphy’s old supporters who backed his 2016 U.S. Senate campaign to charter the poll in the hopes of persuading him to run.

Murphy is undecided.

Without Jolly joining Murphy on the ticket, the poll shows, former Miami-Beach Mayor Philip Levine is in first place with 20 percent, followed by Murphy and former Rep. Gwen Graham in second with 14 percent, according to a polling memo provided by Frederick. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is polling at 6 percent and Winter Park businessman Chris King had 2 percent support.

After the initial ballot test, respondents were then given this positive description of a unity ticket featuring Murphy and Jolly that said: “Some people are urging Patrick Murphy to run for Governor and pick David Jolly, a moderate and independent former Republican Congressman, as his Lt. Governor running mate. They say it would be a clear sign Murphy would be a different kind of Governor who would work together with reasonable Republicans in Tallahassee to set aside Florida’s old, partisan politics and get things done for the Florida.”

At that point, support for a Murphy-Jolly ticket moved them into first place with 21 percent support, followed by Levine at 17 percent, Graham at 12 percent, and Gillum and King still in the low single digits.

While critics are sure to accuse Frederick of conducting a push poll that unfairly biased the results, he also made sure to ask Florida Democrats if they preferred a “liberal who is committed to fighting for true progressive policies without compromise” or a “a moderate Democrat who is willing to work together with reasonable Republicans to get things done.”

By 70–20 percent, the poll showed, voters preferred a moderate to a firebrand progressive.

“This shows a clear opportunity for the Murphy-Jolly ticket and clear support for a ‘get things done’ moderate Democrat, which is even greater than the 47% of the Democratic Primary electorate who label themselves moderate or conservative,” according to Frederick’s polling memo.

Frederick said those numbers shouldn’t surprise political observers because Murphy ran as a moderate in his 2016 Senate campaign and captured nearly 59 percent of the Democratic primary vote against then Rep. Alan Grayson, who got less than 18 percent of the vote in a five-way race. Murphy, however, lost to Sen. Marco Rubio in the general election.

During the Republican primary for Senate, Jolly also ran but left the race before Rubio decided to run for reelection. Jolly then lost reelection in his St. Petersburg seat to former Gov. Charlie Crist.

After the election, Jolly became a frequent cable news presence criticizing fellow Republican Donald Trump. Murphy went back to work at his family’s construction business. The two also hit the lecture circuit together to talk about the dangers of partisan gridlock.

Murphy’s statewide Senate race and Jolly’s frequent TV presence, specifically on Democratic-leaning shows on MSNBC, have made them familiar faces to Democratic voters. Of all the candidates, the poll shows, Murphy is the best known and has a total name ID of 53 percent, followed by Levine (46 percent) and Graham (44 percent). With a total name ID of 31 percent, Jolly is better known to Democrats than Gillum (28 percent) or King (19 percent).

Frederick said Levine, who has spent millions on TV ads while the others have held their fire, has “rented first place” in the race because of his paid media expenditures.

Because of state law governing partisan offices, there is some doubt about whether Murphy would be allowed to pick a member of the opposing party as his running mate — a decision that needs to be made nine days after the primary — but there is no clear statutory provision that bars a unity ticket, either. And Murphy supporters say that, if he decides to run, they would hope someone would try to stop a bipartisan ticket because that would reinforce how much partisanship has infected the political process.

Frederick said the attraction to bipartisanship isn’t limited to Democrats.

“There’s a very powerful force in politics against Tallahassee gridlock and partisan gridlock,” Frederick said. “There’s a hunger to move in a new different direction.”


 

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