New poll suggests Florida governor's race will be close leading up to primaries

Whether Democrat or Republican, the 2018 race for the Florida governor’s mansion has the potential to be a tight one, a new Mason-Dixon poll finds.

Released Tuesday, the poll shows establishment candidates from each respective party as the early favorites leading up to the primaries, but not by a large margin as insurgent contenders continue to make their own significant gains.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham – a former congresswoman and the daughter of former Florida governor and U.S. senator Bob Graham – has so far maintained just a touch of separation ahead of Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, with Graham polling at 20 percent among likely Democratic voters compared to Levine at 17 percent. Not quite on their heels but still in the mix, the poll found Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum – who’s lately been roiled in controversy – polling at 10 percent and Winter Park businessman Chris King at 4 percent.

As for the GOP, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam – a former U.S. congressman, who also bears name recognition among Floridians as the son of a legacy farming family – is just ahead of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, with Putnam polling at 27 percent compared to DeSantis at 23 percent. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran – who isn’t expected to officially announce his candidacy until the end of the Florida Legislature, on March 9 – was found to be heading up the rear at 7 percent in favor.

The survey found that 49 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans remain undecided, which, in less than eloquent terms, leaves a significant amount of voters’ pie still on the table.

According to the poll, the current results reflect name recognition among candidates more than anything else. But however convenient that may seem, the pollsters go on to note how “both frontrunners have leads that are smaller than their recognition advantages.”

Graham currently has an 8-point name recognition lead over Levine, but only a 3-point lead in polling. The same could be said for Putnam, the only candidate to have run statewide: He has a name recognition advantage of 7 points over DeSantis, but only a 4-point lead in the polls.

Mason-Dixon surveyed 1,000 registered voters in Florida – evenly split between Democrats and Republicans – from Jan. 29 - Feb. 1. Each sample has a 4.5 percent margin of error.

The primaries will take place on Aug. 28. For Florida politics nerds, that means there are only eight more months to go (and an enormous amount of money still to be spent.)