This is it — Primary Election Day. After spending a combined $168 million to replace Rick Scott as governor, the Democratic and Republican candidates will be narrowed down to two by the end of the night.
On the Republican side, the only suspense is the margin of victory for Congressman Ron DeSantis. The latest Gravis Marketing poll released Monday shows DeSantis beating Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam 39%-27%. Other polls have a wider lead for DeSantis. Of all the candidates on Tuesday’s ballot, none has to be more disappointed than Adam Putnam. He spent years prepared for a run for governor and up until June 22, Putnam was the front-runner in the GOP race. He led DeSantis in the polls, money raised and grass roots organization. Little did Putnam know that a tweet from President Donald Trump would immediately wipe all of those advantages away. But that’s what happened. DeSantis flipped Putnam’s double-digit lead, constantly reminded Republican voters of the President’s endorsement, and never looked back. If the overwhelming majority of the polls are correct, Ron DeSantis will be the Republican nominee for governor.
For the Democrats, there’s a little more uncertainty. One term Congresswoman Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Governor/U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is the front-runner. The latest Gravis Marketing poll has her with a 7% lead over her nearest rival. But Graham has some disadvantages. She’s been vastly outspent by former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and businessman Jeff Greene. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has rallied the African-American vote. And Graham is a moderate in a political party that leans to the left in primary elections. Would it be shocking to see Graham win? No. Would it be a big surprise if she loses? No. Graham is a better general election candidate than the other four running. She also gives the Democrats the best chance of winning a Florida gubernatorial election since Lawton Chiles last did it in 1994.
The Republican races for Attorney General and Agriculture Commissioner appear to be headed down to the wire. Former Judge Ashley Moody leads State Representative and corporate attorney Frank White in the latest poll 35%-32% but one-third of Republicans apparently still haven’t decided who to vote for. The same is true in the race to replace Adam Putnam as Agriculture Commissioner. Former State Representative Baxter Troutman, current State Representative Matt Caldwell and State Senator Denise Grimsley are locked in a tight battle. The new Gravis Marketing poll has the three candidates separated by one point each — 18% for Troutman, 17% for Caldwell and 16% for Grimsley. Who the undecideds break for remains to be seen.
Keep this fact in mind: Of the new registered Republican voters in the state, 60% are women. If Moody and Grimsley win, those new voters may be why.
Before polls even open Tuesday morning, most votes have already been cast. More than 1.86 million Floridians have already voted. That surpasses early voting in the 2014 midterm elections by more than 644,000 votes and also the 2016 presidential election by more than 39 thousand votes. Republicans have outpaced Democrats in voting so far. The primary election is just a warm-up to November. With a heated U.S. Senate showdown between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott, who first faces a primary challenge he’ll dominate, and a very competitive governor’s race, turnout in November could set a record for a midterm election. We have to get through the primary first.