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Poll: "Undecided", McCollum, Miller Lead GOP Race For U.S. Senate

Marco Rubio’s decision to run for the White House has created a wide-open race for his U.S. Senate seat. A new poll shows voters are unfamiliar with some of the possible contenders, including a couple from the Panhandle.

At 43%, “Undecided” leads the pack of potential GOP candidates in the St. Leo University poll of 535 Floridians.

Frank Orlando, a political scientist at St. Leo, conducted the poll from May 25-31. There’s a four and a half percent margin of error. Among potential candidates, former Attorney General Bill McCollum tops the list at 16%.

“When we look at these early ‘snapshots,’ people who have stronger name recognition have an advantage,” said Orlando. “Bill McCollum, due to the fact that he’s run for statewide office so often has that name recognition advantage among Republicans.”

In second place, at eight percent , is Cong. Jeff Miller. While visiting Pensacola in April, Miller gave everyone a “definite maybe” about a Senate run.

“It’s a discussion that [wife] Vicki and I have had for a little over a month, almost two months now,” Miller said. “It’s very rare that you have a seat open up where there is no clear front runner. This is the case, so we’re looking at it.”

Now in his seventh full term in Congress Miller, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, says a decision either way would be made after gauging the level of statewide support. However, an email sent from Miller’s office this week indicated that no such decision is forthcoming any time soon.

St. Leo’s Frank Orlando says Miller has some plusses and minuses at this early stage.

“Jeff Miller, I think, is in a good position because he’s in a strong Republican area,” said Orlando. “But, is he going to be able to get Republicans from Tampa; Republicans from Miami to jump on board. He’s going to need those votes if he wants to win the nomination.”

It’s a simple formula, says Orlando: name recognition equals money.

“They’re feeling out right now, going to donors and party leaders,” Orlando said. “They’re going to people to try to find out how has the money they’re willing to donate, and how likely it is that they’ll get that money.”

Among the others mentioned in the poll:

  • Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera -- 7%
  • Cong. Ron DeSantis/Cong. David Jolly – 6%
  • State Sen. Don Gaetz – 4%
  • Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux – 3%

Gaetz, meantime, has told the Tampa Bay Times that he will not run for U.S. Senate, but he is looking at Jeff Miller's House seat, if Jeff Miller enters the Senate race.
On the Democratic side, Cong. Patrick Murphy leads fellow Cong. Alan Grayson 27-24%, with 39% undecided.