Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest: A Rubio-less Florida Senate race starts out as a tossup

Democratic Senate candidate Patrick Murphy

Democratic Senate candidate Patrick Murphy at a 2014 campaign appearance with The Big Dog.

Leading Off:
FL-Sen: On Monday, Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy announced that he would run for Senate, whether or not Republican incumbent Marco Rubio seeks a second term. On Wednesday, Murphy earned two pieces of good news: He picked up a major endorsement from ex-Gov. Charlie Crist, and he also got welcome polling numbers from Public Policy Polling, which surveyed the Sunshine State’s 2016 Senate contest for the first time. Here’s how Murphy fares against a battery of possible opponents:

Rubio 48, Murphy 41
Atwater 41, Murphy 39

Bondi 45, Murphy 41

Lopez-Cantera 34, Murphy 41

West 39, Murphy 41

While Rubio understandably starts with a lead, an open seat race would begin as a tossup. Rubio posts a positive 45-40 approval rating which, while not fantastic, is nothing to sneeze at in a time when Congress is so universally despised. Still, Murphy has to be happy that he’s holding the incumbent below 50 at the outset.
Rubio has not announced his 2016 plans, but he looks very likely to seek the presidency rather than seek a second term. Rubio has pledged not to campaign for both offices at once and it’s not hard to see why. It’s difficult enough to run for either the White House or for re-election in a swing state, and doing both at once would be a superhuman task. While the NRSC might be relieved if Rubio decides to put his presidential ambitions on hold, his fellow Republicans are already positioning themselves to run to succeed him.

State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera have both met with national Republicans about potentially running, and at least in the early going, Atwater posts better numbers, though that’s due to his greater name recognition. As for Attorney General Pam Bondi, while she hasn’t formally ruled out a Senate run, she seems to have her eyes on the governorship in 2018. Finally, PPP tested former Rep. Allen West, whom Murphy narrowly unseated in 2012; if they took a rematch statewide, things would be similarly tight. But while Democrats would love it if the incendiary West made a comeback, it’s not going to happen. West recently moved to Texas and told Politico’s Jake Sherman on Wednesday that he’s staying in the Lone Star State and won’t be “chasing political office like some egomaniacal politician.”

Head below the fold for more on this Florida Senate race.

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