FL-Sen: Nelson Leads All, Except Jeb

Public Policy Polling (12/17-20, Florida voters):

Bill Nelson (D-inc): 47

George LeMieux (R): 36

Bill Nelson (D-inc): 44

Jeb Bush (R): 49

Bill Nelson (D-inc): 44

Mike Haridopolos (R): 32

Bill Nelson (D-inc): 46

Adam Hasner (R): 30

Bill Nelson (D-inc): 44

Connie Mack IV (R): 36

(MoE: ±3%)

This poll’s been out there for a little while now, but with SSP Headline News enjoying an extended vacation from the blogosphere, I called the boys down at SSP Reclamation Services & Towing to drag this fugging thing out of the swamp before it becomes lost to time.

Bill Nelson, going for his third term in 2012, doesn’t appear to be in an especially sound position, sitting in the mid-40s against all comers and sporting a seemingly pedestrian approval rating of 36-33. However, as Tom Jensen explains, the math is a little bit kinder to Nelson than first meets the eye:

Nelson’s approval numbers don’t appear on the surface to be that good, with 36% of voters approving of him and 33% disapproving with a pretty remarkable 31% holding no opinion even after nearly 16 years in statewide office. There are some unusual quirks in his numbers though that amount to him actually being stronger than his topline numbers might suggest. Democrats are pretty tepid toward him, with only 45% approving to 19% who disapprove. Usually we see folks closer to the 70% approval mark within their own parties. But he has an unusual level of popularity with Republicans- 23% might not sound like a lot of crossover support but many Democrats this year are finding themselves with single digit approval with Republicans. And Nelson’s on positive ground with independents as well at 42/36, again somewhat unusual in a year where those voters were not particularly friendly to Democrats.

As it is right now, Jeb Bush would be the GOP’s strongest recruit, but it seems pretty clear that a Jeb candidacy is simply not going to happen. We’re left with a platter of second-tier choices: outgoing Sen. George LeMieux, state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, and Rep. Connie Mack IV. Haridopolos is the only one of the above who is (more or less) actually in the race, but Hasner seems a likely candidate, and Mack and LeMieux are actively weighing the race, as well. Will a clear leader emerge from this crop?

74 thoughts on “FL-Sen: Nelson Leads All, Except Jeb”

  1. I know a lot of people will probably disagree, because Rep. Mack might jump in and Haridopolis is already ramping up a campaign, but Sen. LeMieux has a conservative record in the U.S. Senate he can point to, while Hasner is a moderate with pro-environmentalist positions and Mack was arm-in-arm with Rep. Paul in defending WikiLeaks (which suggests to me he’s really not thinking about a statewide bid); he can respond to charges he’s too close with Gov. Crist by saying he put ideology and party unity in front of any personal feelings when he endorsed now-Sen.-elect Rubio; he doesn’t have any ethics issues the way Haridopolis seems to; and he’s a young guy who has already made some connections during his time in Washington.

    I’m rooting for Hasner, because he seems like a tolerable sort of Republican, but I think it’ll be LeMieux.

  2. They will not get out of the primary b/c they are too close to Crist. Haridopolos and Hasner were never close to Crist, even when he was a Republican. Hasner served under Rubio, and could receive behind the scenes help from him. Hasner also will raise a ton from Jewish Republicans and Meg Whitman. I’m sure he can self fund too now, considering Whitman probably paid his wife millions. I would expect him to raise the most out of the field since he will get an early start and has connections, unless Buchanan runs. At this point, I think Hasner and Haridopolos are favorites, but probably Hasner b/c of Haridopolos’s ethics issues. This is assuming a Hasner, LeMeiux, Mack, Haridopolos field. If Rooney, Carrol, or Buchanan runs, that changes the whole equation.  

  3. I’m a lot more worried about McCaskill and Tester (only if Rehberg runs) than about Nelson (and, marginally more so, Virginia, but with or without Webb, I’m not worried about it at all).

  4. I’ll just throw it out there, but I think a lot of Democrats are a bit more optimistic about Republican’s chances than they probably should be.  I just don’t see how the Republicans sustain at anywhere near the level they peaked in 2010 the tea party fervor of this period.  I also have to be convinced that there is was or will be some grand anti-incumbent mood.  I say that so long as Democrats don’t say stupid things there chances will  be at least as good in 2012 if not better.

  5. I’m about 99 percent certain Lemieux doesn’t have a shot in hell, though. Sure, he has a generic conservative record, but he’s the appointee of CHARLIE CRIST, who’s about as popular with the Florida GOP as Mel Gibson is with Zionists.

  6. I find this little tidbit from Claire McCaskill more than a little strange;


    you rarely see incumbents release fundraising goals for reporting purposes so far out. Smacks a bit of desperation (though I think that is just bad PR rather than a sign of actual fear/panic from her).

  7. Hasner’s connection with eMeg? Is Hasner some good family friend of the Whitman family or something?

  8. He’s a good fit for Florida, and all of the Republicans have some weaknesses. The primary will certainly be bruising, especially if the likes of Haridopolis ends up making it through.

  9. …I’m more worried than you.  Yes Webb can win reelection, I think it more likely than not that he’ll beat Allen in a rematch.  The Presidential year makes it tougher for Allen than 2006, the turnout model will be much stronger for Dems in 2012.  And Senate comebacks in rematches are exceptionally rare.  Shaheen did it, but it took a Dem wave year and a state rapidly departing from its safe R history for her to pull it off.  The few others who have tried, failed.  (Coats doesn’t count because there was no rematch, since Coats retired when Bayh first ran and Bayh retired this time.)

    But all that said, it will be very close.

    And if Webb doesn’t run, then we need Kaine, and if he, too, doesn’t run, Allen is the early favorite.  For sure he can be beat by a Dem of lesser stature who runs a strong campaign in a Presidential year with Obama turnout, but Allen would start out the early favorite just the same.

    I just hope Webb runs and saves us the trouble.

    My fantasy after that is that Mark Warner will run for Governor in 2013 and then appoint his Democratic successor.  Not expecting it, but it’s my fantasy.

  10. from his 2000 win and how Obama won the state.  Obama won Orange county (Orlando) by 19% while Nelson in his first Senate run only won it by 8% while winning the state by 5% compared to Obama’s 3%.  Hillsborough County (Tampa) was won by Obama 53-46 but Nelson only got 51-46, again, even while he won by a larger margin statewide.  

    While it seems likely Nelson won’t be winning the rural areas like he did in 2000, he, as a moderate Dem incumbent, can do a lot of cleaning up in central FL.

  11. to take the majority if Obama is re-elected made me feel much more comfortable in keeping the Senate at the very least.  Four seats isn’t too many, but the GOP would need a wave year where they gain nearly all of their targets and we gain none of ours.  And as we learned from 2010, the tea party is not going to take winning freebie Senate seats lying down!

  12. pessimism regarding the Senate races. I don’t think many of them will be very easy, unless we get lucky and have Palin as the Republican nominee, but none of them appear to be a true uphill battle at this point except for Ben Nelson’s seat.  

  13. PPP actually polled the R primary for this, and LeMieux came in at 3%.  Granted they included Jeb Bush who lapped the field, but LeMieux still was an also-ran not even in 2nd place.  LeMieux’s favorables/job approvals have been consistently weak, with low name recognition in spite of being the sitting Senator.

    And I doubt it would get any better for LeMieux.  He has never run for office and so has no campaign experience to build upon.  His appointment to the seat by Crist by itself hurts him with Republican primary voters.  And there’s no reason for other GOP wannabes to defer to LeMieux, he easily can be beaten.

    I think LeMieux actually winning the 2012 FL GOP Senate primary would be a bigger upset than O’Donnell and Miller and Angle winning primaries this past cycle.  LeMieux has every possible negative going against him.

  14. There are only two things that anyone knows about George LeMieux:

    1. He was a Crist-appointed seat warmer who left office with no accomplishments or seniority after serving only for a few months. He wouldn’t have been in the Senate at all if Mel Martinez hadn’t wandered off mid-term.  

    2. He used to be Crist’s chief of staff.

    The stink of being associated with Crist isn’t ever going to wash off, no matter how hard he tries to change to subject. He has nothing else to run on, and just that to run away from.  

  15. She might have won if the Republicans didn’t illegally attack the Democratic Party operations on Election Day.

  16. Is that in 2013 voters will actually turn out and not let our state’s Gov be crazy Cooch!!!

    I am feeling optimistic that either Webb or Kaine will run in 2012. I am hoping that the Tea Party gets its act together and settles on one candidate to go against Allen. If they don’t split the vote like they did in the VA-05 primary maybe even George Allen gets defeated which would be utterly amazing for him to not be conservative enough. In a Presidental year in a purple state someone like Corey Stewart or Jaime Radtke would be a massive failure beyond what George Allen would ever be.  

  17. Granted running incumbents are almost always preferable than not and I honestly don’t know that Kaine would really be stronger than Webb (almost certainly not, so my view is clear) but I think that Kaine would be better for long-term party building, and that’s worth the added risk (assuming, of course, that we could guarantee Kaine would run if Webb retires).

    That said, early polls and profile aside (and I agree with you on Perriello’s profile) Allen’s big problem in 2006 was NoVA, and it continues to be a problem (especially if someone like Perriello, who has a base in southwestern Virginia, runs).

    Not to mention that George Allen’s past is still an issue, and whether or not he can keep his big mouth shut (and I strongly question that premise). I don’t buy that someone like Allen can ultimately get enough cross-over support to win if Obama wins the state by more than 5 points.

    Long story short, my view is that George Allen is more formidable in theory than he is in practice.

  18. vote totals from the rural areas in 2012 be so different from 2000? And even if it is drastically different, I think you’ve got the right idea about why he can be confident: there are simply more people in the more populated areas, so any sort of improvement is amplified more than it otherwise might be. If he and Obama roughly fly high or fall in the same way, he has to hope Obama really works the state like he did last time.

    But I do wonder if he can actually get a higher percentage of the vote than Obama overall. If the exit polls can be believe, Obama received the same percentage of the white vote than Kerry received, but a higher percentage of Hispanic voters and black voters. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Nelson do better with white voters than Obama while receiving just as much minority support.  

  19. Bill Nelson is a classic old-school Southern Dem or pretends to be. Thats why he performs stronger in the Northern rural counties and has a military and space background which help him overperform for a Dem in less friendly parts of the state. The key to winning statewide is to get good turnout in Dem bastions of Broward, Palm Beach, Alachua, and Leon, while winning or running up good margins in Pinellas, Hillsborough (Tampa), Orange (Orlando), Miami-Dade and Duval (Jacksonville). Nelson can pull it off if he wins the East Central Fl counties (his base is in Melbourne in Brevard) and does well in the Tampa Bay region while not getting slaughtered in Duval and the Panhandle.

    18 Gay D Male, Fl 20th District

  20. He isn’t controversial or anything; he’s a fairly mainstream Democrat but hasn’t put himself out in front of any of the major debates over the past couple years.  Plus, he’s a pretty big NASA proponent, having been a part of the program (that might explain the higher than average Republican approval).  Honestly, it doesn’t surprise me that a third of the state has no opinion of him – he’s rarely in the news in at least Gainesville & the Tampa Bay area.

  21. to put something as your signature (so you don’t have to type it at the end every time) click apollo_7692’s page (right-hand side of the main page), then click the profile tab, then put it in Comments Signature and click save.

  22. unless the latter’s winning in a landslide (and it’s been obvious for a couple months to FL voters) or there’s some compelling hispanic Republican candidate running against Nelson:

    Nelson vs Lemieux/Haridopolos/teapartier: 5-10%+ above Obama’s margin

    Nelson vs Mack/Hassel/Carrol/Buchanan/generic-R: 0-5% above Obama’s margin

    Probably, the only (unlikely) scenario otherwise would be Jeb Bush winning against Nelson if Obama was beating Palin & the economy was still bad because voters would just be voting for status quo essentially, Obama with a Republican congress.

  23. are just about done voting for Democrats.  Nelson did very well in FL-2 and they just threw out Rep. Boyd by a convincing 12%.  And with Obama at the top of the ticket, I’d say they be sending a message up and down the ballot to him.

  24. While I agree they should be in prison for what they did, I doubt it really swung the election.  They blocked calls for less than an hour, making almost 1000 calls.  Shaheen lost by 20,000 votes out of less than 450k cast.  I don’t think having those phone lines for an hour would have convinced 20,000 non-voters to somehow decide to vote, especially in a small state like NH.  It was sweet sweet revenge in 2008 though!  

  25. I was on the ground for the last 2 weeks in NH back in ’02 and I think the attacks were much ado about nothing. There were also some tires slashed on the vans being used to drive GOP voters to the polls.

    As anyone who’s done campaign work in NH knows, the race isn’t won by phone banks for GOTV efforts – it’s all the matter of WHO HAS MORE YARD SIGNS UP COVERING EVERY SQUARE INCH OF AVAILABLE GROUND!!!!!! So lame….

  26. because of the slashed tires? Did the Democratic Party of New Hampshire hire people to slash tires in the same way that the Republican Party in the state hired an outside company to jam the phone lines?  

  27. and so is vandalism, but being a crime and altering the outcome of an election are two very different things.

  28. it’s hardly appropriate to just blow it off like it was no big deal. It’s voter suppression on the same level as all of the other shit the Republicans pull (like trying to deceive or disqualify minority voters).

  29. but I don’t agree that somehow the ’02 result in NH would have been different had the attack you mentioned failed or not happened at all. Just perspective, not an endorsement of cheating.

  30. What’s really stupid is that it is legal to buy jamming equipment but illegal to use it. Why sell it in the first place?

  31. are acceptable to the base?

    Also, I wonder if Nelson’s path to victory needs to be anything other than teaming with the Obama campaign to register as many black voters as possible and then turning them out, while either maintaining or not getting killed amongst other groups. Unless there was some updated information that changes the picture, there are 500,000-plus unregistered black voters in that state. It’s certainly not likely that they will get 60 percent to show up, but it doesn’t seem unrealistic to have Nelson and Obama to try to get 100,000 black voters to show up and vote for them. I’m not sure if there’s a senator anywhere else in the country that is sitting on an untapped demographic advantage like Nelson is.  

  32. There is no evidence the slashed tires were politically motivated or any clue who did it. Any I don’t mean to discount criminal activity in any way and the phone jamming is abviously one of the most egregious (and stupid) examples of this kind of crap, but that said…lots of really bad things happen on the campaign trail all the time, both sides make a big fuss about it, but in most cases – and certainly in the ’02 NH Senate race – they do not change the outcome of elections.

  33. the Republicans have nebulous, hypothetical fearmongering about “voter fraud” (OMG UNLESS WE REQUIRE PHOTO ID MICKEY MOUSE AND BRETT FAVRE WILL VOTE!!!!!!111) whereas there is documented proof that Republicans and allied groups try to make it harder for minorities to vote (like the aforementioned photo ID requirements which just so happen to disproportionately hit minorities and the poor).

  34. NH is full of kooks who work on way too many campaigns and take their jobs (and more importantly themselves) way too seriously. I don’t think this was a big conspiracy (please correct me if I’m wrong).

    Stuff like this makes me really want to strip NH of it’s first primary status, all that attention has warped the brains of the state’s politicos. In fact when Bush won the GOP nomination without NH and then won reelection without NH I was very hopeful the state would finally lose the ridiculous hold it has on our nomination process. Clinton’s eventually futal win in ’08 might have finally put the last nail in that coffin, but sadly I think McCain’s AMAZING REBIRTH (gag) in ’08 will keep the state on oxygen for at least 1 more cycle. Maybe if Romney wins it in ’12 and then dies anyway we’ll finally get somewhere!

  35. I think dirty tricks like jamming someone’s phones or disabling their cars is a whole different world from voter identification. Not that voter ID efforts wouldn’t hurt minority/poor voters, but to equate trying to pass laws is a whole world of difference from breaking them.

  36. this points to a larger issue of voter suppression being par for the course for the GOP, and while in the spirit of bipartisanship we can pretend there is moral equivalency here, the fact is that for every issue you can find of Democrats doing something wrong, you can probably find 50 of Republicans doing something wrong.

  37. I disagree on the voter suppression issue.  

    As for dirty campaign crap I think it runs fairly even.

  38. at Red State or the like are complaining about supposed voter intimidation too. Not to say it doesn’t happen, but I think for the most part (stricktly my opinion) it isn’t nearly as widespread as either side imagines and far less effective too.

  39. It was, in fact, the state party. It’s certainly not fair to tar all Republicans in the state with what happened, but there certainly was involvement from the state party and possibly even the national party. It wasn’t an amateur effort.


    As far as its role in the nominating process, I’m all for as change of pace. Here’s what I think we should do: group the states into a few different categories based on region and then pick a state at random from each category to go first. Regardless of the schedule of these contests (whether the state picked from each category would vote on separate days, or, if not, when they’d vote), I think it’d be a big improvement, if only because I could see it spurring political participation in the primaries and then the general election. And as political theater, it’d be thrilling, at least at first. Imagine if Minnesota went first, followed by Utah, followed by Maryland, followed by Florida, followed by West Virginia, followed by Oregon, and so on.  

  40. That was the entire problem with turnout, that Deeds’ obvious blowout loss depressed Democratic turnout, which in turn hurt us downballot.  Had Deeds been down just mid-to-high single digits in the polls, then a lot more base Democrats would have showed up.  Deeds still would have lost, as would Wagner and Shannon, but our most heartbreaking losses, such as Vanderhye’s, would have been clear wins.

  41. …Perriello postures as a liberal, and he would enter as a former one-term Congressman who lost his last election–not a good profile out of the gate.  He’s a very likeable guy of the highest personal character, and he outperforms because of that plus his strong field campaign skills.  He certainly CAN win, and the quality of each candidate’s campaign would matter a lot.  But for Perriello the key would be raising gobs of money and creating a winning message both for himself and against Allen.

    Ultimately one problem Perriello would have is that Webb or Kaine wouldn’t is that being perceived to their left, Tom would lose some straight centrist and center-right indies that Webb and Kaine will win.

    And Perriello can’t “make up” for that deficit with a strong field campaign because in a statewide race, Obama’s campaign will do the field and anyone downballot really gets only a small marginal benefit from doing their own thing.  Of course, the flip side of that is that Perriello doesn’t have to invest as much in field, and can invest those resources instead in media and message delivery.

    The above is my long-winded answer.

    If I wanted to give a brief answer, I’d say a former one-term Congressman who lost his last election is almost always an underdog against a former one-term Governor and one-term U.S. Senator, even though that guy also lost his last election.

  42. Lemieux has Crist-taint so he’s a non-starter.

    Haridopolos is good with the base, but he’s not squeaky clean by any means so Nelson probably would beat him in a neutral year.

    Mack can probably get through in a divided conservative field and I don’t know how Carrol would do honestly.  However, if Buchanan decides to run he has a strong chance of winning the primary without tacking too far to the right.  He can point to sponsoring the balanced budget amendment for teapartier purposes and is fairly moderate on energy issues (anti-offshore drilling & pro eliminating the liability cap on oil companies & alternative energy).  Plus, he can self-fund.  Honestly, the only big strike against him is the FEC stuff with his car dealerships, but that has gotten so muddled with him vs the dealer owner, that he isn’t even involved in the current lawsuit.  And after Rick Scott & Marco Rubio with there ethics problems, it’s small potatoes.

  43. Running against Katherine Harris would make almost any candidate seem much more responsible, moderate, respectable, intelligent and a slew of other positive adjectives.

    I’m disappointed she and her magnificent ta-tas** weren’t included in PPP’s poll, just to test their floor, if nothing else. Hasner’s numbers cover the “Some Dude We’ve Never Heard Of” territory, but what if Florida Republicans nominate someone the electorate actively dislikes, like Harris?

    Because after Sharron Angle, I’d believe the Republican primary electorate might be dumb enough to somehow nominate someone horribly unpopular…Mark Foley, perhaps?

    **Is this sexist? Probably. But so are boob jobs.

  44. …on “who currently are your U.S. Senators,” more people would pick Martinez than LeMieux.  Martinez’s resignation and LeMieux’s appointment is the most invisible, if unintentionally so, handoff I’ve ever seen for a U.S. Senate seat.

  45. it would probably be the Republican version of SSP, which I don’t think is online yet. Being compared to Red State is like character assassination.

  46. I only wanted to pick a publication that even people who don’t read RW blogs would know what it is. If I said National Review or The Weekly Standard would you forgive me?

  47. that’s only a 10 in offensiveness instead of like a 50,000, but nevertheless I remain rooted in my belief that this isn’t just a subjective matter. Either way, like I said, I won’t throw anything at you past that.

  48. I had the privilege of being represented by her for a few years, lucky me.  I wasn’t involved in politics in middle school, but I remember her well enough lol.

    Rick Scott vs Nelson might be a good low point, as his approval rating is negative double digits.

  49. for a guy who just WON, ditto with Feingold’s numbers in WI after getting a 5pt smackdown.

    Tell you a lot about voter behavior in wave elections.

  50. This WikiLeaks stuff is going to come back and bite him in the ass if he runs. I just saw a CNN opinion poll showing WikiLeaks is pretty broadly despised by Americans, and he was one of the only congresscritters who stood up for it.

  51. I honestly don’t see his remarks about wikileaks is a killer (but I’ve been wrong before, or so my wife keeps telling me).

    Still have Jorge Arrizurieta getting out front on setting up a funraising network tells me he’s in. Unless Arrizurieta is the tail wagging the dog (ie fundraising and ground network is looking for a candidate, not a candidate looking for a campaign operation).

  52. who cares even if it is desperate? It’s not going to change the outcome of the race at all. She has the advantage of actually sitting in that seat and being able to raise money as the incumbent. Why not get ahead of the game–way, way ahead of the game–while she can? The eventual candidate won’t have that option.  

  53. Who else on the Democratic side with a geopolitically “unusual” base for a statewide bid might run for Senate in 2012? I’m interested in tracking their progress and seeing if being from a swing area rather than a Democratic stronghold, or a rural area rather than a population center, makes any significant difference to their results.

  54. view of the race lines up with what you said. It’s not that it would be surprising if Allen won, but it’s far from guaranteed. After all, he lost last time. Yes, it was a close race, closer than other races, but that’s what happens you knock off incumbents, usually.

    Unless it’s an absolute blowout where Obama loses the state by 11 points, I could actually see him losing, barely, but the Democrat winning, if the Republicans nominate someone like Mitch Daniels and the Democrats run Webb or someone else reasonable for the seat while the Republicans nominate Allen. My impression of NoVa is that while it’s not Berkeley, it’s becoming increasingly unfriendly to someone like Allen.

    As for long-term party building, why would Kaine be better? Because he would occupy the seat for a longer period of time?  

  55. I can understand voting out a guy that you like because you want a change. It is more surprising, though, when the guy that was just elected is in negative territory already. He didn’t win a big victory, sure, but he did win. Is the poll not capturing the portion of the electorate that showed up?  

  56. Kaine has, and to a certain extent, so has Warner. Webb really is about as nonpartisan a senator as you can get, that is both good and bad in different ways.

    I’d elaborate, but I’m pretty hungover from New Years!

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