Republican Ron DeSantis is on the attack after CNN released a poll showing Democrat Andrew Gillum leading 54% to 42% — a 12 point lead among likely voters — just hours before the two candidates for governor debate for the first time.
The CNN poll, conducted by SSRS Research, gives Democrats a +3 turnout advantage, an electorate not seen in any statewide election in Florida for at least the past twenty years.
The DeSantis campaign also accuses the pollster of failing to use weighted samples, which is standard in polling, that reflect past election turnout. For example, the CNN poll forecasts more independent voters than Republicans or Democrats casting ballots in the November election. That has never happened in either a presidential or midterm election year. Early voting ballots already returned also dispute the poll’s turnout numbers. Republicans lead Democrats by nearly 50 thousand votes, and independent voters by nearly 250 thousand ballots.
“Simply put, this CNN survey is not worth the paper it is written on because the sample and weights do not reflect a Florida election. It also makes no sense to use this sampling when you can buy Florida’s voter file and voting history files for $10 and weight to those voter-level characteristics,” said Stephen Lawson, DeSantis campaign spokesman. “That CNN takes this poll seriously enough to blast it out to their viewers right before a debate on their network is why so many Americans believe that CNN peddles fake news.”
The DeSantis campaign conducted its own tracking poll leading up to Sunday’s debate that shows the former Northeast Florida Congressman with a 47%-45% lead over Tallahassee Mayor Gillum. In a polling memo sent to major DeSantis donors, campaign chair Susie Wiles said, “In short, this assumes a challenging electoral scenario for Republicans, but one we are presently rising above. We currently show Ron with a 47 percent – 45 percent lead. Ron’s lead is larger at +7 percent among voter that have already cast vote by mail ballots.”
No other polling shows a similar result to the new CNN survey. One private poll conducted by a statewide organization shows the race tied, while a public survey released last week by St. Pete Polls shows Gillum with a one-point lead.
In short, the CNN poll seems like an outlier but gives the cable network airing Sunday’s debate a narrative it will likely exploit.