Newly Proposed Presidential Primary Date to Have Significant Impact

Florida Republicans respond favorably to the prospect of either their former Governor Jeb Bush or their current U.S. Senator Marco Rubio running for president, according to a new survey conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

According to the poll, 63 percent of Florida Republicans would like to see Bush run for president. Another question asked Sunshine State Republicans if they would like to see Rubio run, and 58 percent responded with a “yes.” But if voters were asked to choose between the two, 54 percent of Florida Republicans said they would support Bush, while 36 percent would choose Rubio.

In the politically mixed response base of Republicans, Democrats and independent voters, the two leading Republicans generated split reactions. When asked about the former governor running for president, 45 percent of Florida voters said they would like to see Bush run and 45 percent said they would not. For Rubio, 40 percent would like him to run but 45 percent would not. The full results are below.

Would you like to see Florida Senator Marco Rubio run for president of the United States in 2016?


All Possible responses Republicans Independents Democrats
40% Yes 58% 32% 28%
45% No 20% 56% 60%
16% Don’t know / not sure 23% 12% 12%


Would you like to see former Florida Governor Jeb Bush run for president of the United States in 2016?


All Possible responses R I D
45% Yes 63% 50% 29%
45% No 26% 38% 63%
10% Don’t know / not sure 11% 12% 8%


Let’s say both Florida Senator Marco Rubio and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush run for President in 2016. Which candidate would you support?


All Possible responses R I D
30% Marco Rubio 36% 26% 27%
39% Jeb Bush 54% 41% 25%
25% Neither 4% 20% 44%
7% Don’t know / not sure 7% 12% 4%


“Florida Republicans seem to like both Governor Bush and Senator Rubio and they are happy they may run for president,” said Frank Orlando, instructor of political science at Saint Leo University. “General election voters, as one would expect in a swing state like Florida, are split right down the middle.”

Another question looming in Florida that will affect Republican candidates involves the parameters for running the next Florida Republican presidential primary, noted the Saint Leo University political scientist. New conditions could affect either candidate’s potential for gaining delegates at the national GOP level.

Rick Scott recently signed a new bill that will move Florida’s primary to March 15. That particular date is important because of the Republican National Committee’s rules for awarding convention delegates to the top competitors. In states that wait until at least March 15 to hold primaries, the state Republican Party can opt to award all that state’s national delegates to the top vote getter, instead of awarding delegates on a proportional basis among the field of candidates.

“It’s a huge thing (for a candidate for the Republican nomination for president) to win Florida early,” said Saint Leo’s Orlando. This could potentially be another huge boost to the Bush or Rubio campaigns, he added.

“It’s potentially great news for Jeb Bush’s delegate count, resulting in major resources being expended. Bush is pinning all his hopes on winning Florida. Even if he performs poorly in some of the early primary states, he knows that Florida can act as his firewall to reboot his campaign. This change makes Florida almost as consequential as it is in the general election,” remarked Orlando.

Rubio is in strong position for re-election to the United States Senate, should he choose to run again for his current office. Rubio’s re-elect rating is a solid 52 percent, according to the survey:

If Senator Rubio runs for re-election in the year 2016, will you probably vote for Senator Rubio or will you probably vote for the Democratic candidate?


All Possible responses R I D
27% Definitely will vote for Senator Rubio 57% 10% 10%
25% Probably will vote for Senator Rubio 30% 30% 18%
16% Probably will NOT vote for Senator Rubio 5% 13% 27%
21% Definitely will NOT vote for Senator Rubio 2% 21% 37%
11% Don’t know / unsure 6% 25% 8%


Should the seat become vacant, former Governor Charlie Crist is an early front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi leads the field of prospective Republican candidates, although the most voters say they are undecided about whom they would support.

Likely Democratic Florida voters were asked:

Which of the following potential candidates would you support for the Democratic nomination if they ran for United States Senate in 2016?

33% Former Governor Charlie Crist
14% Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
8% Congresswoman Kathy Castor
7% Congressman Patrick Murphy
4% Congressman Ted Deutch
1% Former state legislator Dan Gelber
13% Some other candidate
20% Don’t know / not sure


  • Note: According to recent news reports, Charlie Crist and Debbie Wasserman-Schulz appear to be final regarding their decision not to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Marco Rubio. The Saint Leo poll was conducted while they were still considering running.

Likely Republican Florida voters were asked:

If Senator Marco Rubio does not seek re-election to the United States Senate in 2016, which of the following potential candidates would you support for the Republican nomination for United States Senate in 2016?


26% Attorney General Pam Bondi
14% Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam
13% Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater
6% Former House Speaker Will Weatherford
8% Some other candidate
33% Don’t know / not sure


Question on Governor Scott’s administration

Florida voters were also asked about the recent handling by Governor Rick Scott regarding the replacement of one of his senior administrative staff members. Voters who had an opinion were evenly mixed on his decision­, but only about half of respondents were aware of the matter. The survey asked:

In December, Florida Governor Rick Scott replaced longtime Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey. Governor Scott says he made the change to bring in new leadership at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Critics say that Bailey was fired for not cooperating with requests to aid the Governor’s re-election effort. What comes closest to your opinion on the transition?


All Possible responses R I D
14% Governor Scott acted appropriately in replacing Gerald Bailey and the decision was not mainly politically motivated 20% 12% 10%
37% Governor Scott acted to punish Bailey for Bailey’s reluctance to aid in Scott’s re-election campaign and the change was mainly politically motivated 24% 41% 47%
23% I am aware of this issue, but have no opinion 29% 20% 18%
26% I am not aware of this issue 27% 26% 25%


According to Saint Leo’s Orlando, “These survey results about Governor Scott’s replacing of FDLE Commissioner Bailey shows that the average citizen really does not care about these types of issues. Despite a large amount of news coverage, it seems that only people in the political class have formed strong opinions on the issue,” he stated. This is also the first time in the Saint Leo quarterly polls that Governor Scott has shown positive job performance ratings, with 51 percent responding that they either strongly approve (14 percent) or somewhat approve (37 percent) of the job the governor is doing..

About the Saint Leo University Polling Institute/Methodology

This Saint Leo University poll of 522 Florida adults, including 433 likely voters, was conducted between March 15 and March 21, 2015. The margin of error on political questions (of likely voters only) is approximately 5 percent +/- with a 95 percent confidence level. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allows for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive – usually $1 dollar deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account – for their participation.

Media Contacts: Kim Payne, staff writer and media coordinator, at or (352) 588-7233/(717) 798-1508 or Jo-Ann Johnston, academic communications manager, at or (352) 588-8237/(352) 467-0843.