Florida has looked a little dicey for the Democrats this cycle. Bill Nelson, in particular, is in a very tough race to hold his Senate seat, with challenger Rick Scott running slightly ahead in the polls.
But could Andrew Gillum be a ray of sunshine for the Democrats in the Sunshine State? Gillum, the strongly progressive black mayor of Tallahassee, was the upset victor in the August 28 Democratic primary and now carries the party''s hopes for taking back the Florida governorship.
Impressively, despite his distinctly non-centrist profile and an unfolding corruption investigation around him in Tallahassee, he is out of the gate with some very positive poll results. The just-released Quinnipiac poll of Florida has Gillum ahead of DeSantis 50-47 among likely voters.
How seriously should we take this poll? Besides the fact that it is just one poll and that it is very early days in the race, there are some other reasons for caution.
While Gillum, as one might expect, has overwhelming black support (93-2!), Hispanic support is troublingly poor--in fact, the poll shows DeSantis carrying these voters 56-43. Since Clinton carried Hispanics 57-38 in 2016 and still lost the state, one wonders how the poll shows Gillum in the lead.
The answer lies in the poll's white sample. Among these voters, Gillum is shockingly close, only trailing DeSantis by 7 points (by comparison, Clinton lost whites in the state by 22 points in 2016).. Drilling down a little further, the poll shows Gillum splitting the white college vote about evenly and only losing the white noncollege vote by 15 points. I find the former result somewhat believable but the latter somewhat less so.. Noncollege whites, after all, gave Trump a 30 point margin in Florida in 2016 and one wonders how likely they are to swing so sharply to Gillum and the Democrats in 2018.
So caution about this poll is certainly warranted. But there are some very interesting patterns here for Democrats to keep an eye on. Stay tuned.