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Nation's Eyes On Florida's Rubio v. Murphy Senate Race

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  With the backing of some independent voters, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has a seven-point lead over Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy in the latest Quinnipiac University poll. 

Taken between August 31 and last Wednesday, the 601 likely voters queried give Rubio a 50-43 percent edge, with a four point margin of error. A poll taken before their easy primary victories showed Rubio leading Murphy 48-45 percent.

Susan McManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida, says Rubio’s decision to seek a second term in office after his failed presidential bid shows how crucial it is for the Republicans to hold onto that seat.

“If the Democrats were to win five U.S. Senate seats currently held by Republicans, they would be the majority in the Senate,” said McManus. “Right now Rubio’s ahead somewhat among the No Party Affiliation, or the independent voters, who tend to be younger and more diverse from a racial and ethnic perspective.”

Murphy’s advantage would be a high turnout of Democratic voters. Another boost would be if presidential nominee Hillary Clinton takes Florida. But McManus says Florida has a history of straight-ticket voting. While both Murphy and Rubio pretty much preach to the choir when it comes to voters in their respective parties Rubio is up 53-37 percent among independents in the new Q-Poll.

“Rubio is hoping for people to split ticket vote, because a lot of Republicans don’t like [Donald] Trump and he’s hopeful they’re just skip that race and move down to the next,” said McManus.

In a presidential race between two major-party nominees with high disapproval ratings, can down-ticket candidates depend on riding their coattails to victory in November? McManus says it depends on turnout and a cadre of new voters.

“For example, the Clinton campaign is reaching out to new Puerto Ricans around the Orlando and Tampa areas – the I-4 Corridor,” McManus says. “Trump is attracting a number of working-class white conservatives. But will these new voters actually show up or not? We don’t know.”

Zika started out as a health crisis, but is now a full-blown political topic. Murphy and Rubio are trading barbs over Congress’ inability to fund efforts against the mosquito-borne virus.

“It represents, to many, what is wrong with Congress in that they cannot get together – either party – to solve what many see as a very major U.S. health problem,” said McManus.

Another statewide poll by Public Policy Polling depicts a closer race in the wake of the August 30 primary. It found Rubio leading Murphy by three percentage points -- within that poll's margin of error.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.