- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A new poll puts the Florida gubernatorial race dead even, days after Tallahassee’s Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum scored an upset primary win to take on Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis.

Mr. Gillum’s 50-47 edge is within the polls margin of error and makes the race at its nascent stage too close to call, according to the poll released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University.

When combined with another poll from Gravis, Mr. Gillum currently enjoys a +2.5 lead over Mr. DeSantis in the RealClearPolitics polling average.

The high marks are a testament to Mr. Gillum’s momentum coming out of his primary win, which catapulted the Bernie Sanders-backed liberal on to the Sunday talk shows and the adoration of the left-wing elements within the Democratic Party, pollsters said.

“That momentum shows itself as Gillum hits 50-percent in a neck-and-neck matchup with DeSantis,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll. “Neither man was well-known before their primaries, but since then the race has a center of political attention in the state.”

In what could be a potentially troubling sign for the DeSantis campaign, Quinnipiac found independents tilting toward Mr. Gillum by an even wider margin at 55-42.

While Mr. Gillum’s victory over Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham was a surprise, Mr. DeSantis had enjoyed a large lead over his closest challenger, Florida’s Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam. Mr. Putnam enjoyed solid leads over both Ms. Graham and Mr. Gillum in pre-primary polling.

“The Gillum campaign’s off to a great start, with Mayor Gillum raising the resources we need to win and our message resonating with voters across the political spectrum,” said Geoff Burgan, the campaign’s communications director.

Mr. DeSantis’ campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the poll.

The DeSantis campaign has been largely quiet while Mr. Gillum capitalized on his new celebrity. In the immediate aftermath of the primary, Mr. DeSantis warned that Mr. Gillum’s platform of a 40 percent corporate tax hike and Medicare for all would bankrupt Florida and he urged Sunshine State voters “not to monkey” with an economy that is performing well. Democrats seized on his remark as “racist,” and the election was further roiled when a so-called White Nationalist outfit from out-of-state robocalled Floridians and mocked Mr. Gillum.

The DeSantis campaign quickly denounced the phone calls, and Mr. Gillum did not stress them in his Sunday appearances but cautioned Mr. DeSantis and his surrogates to be “careful” with their language.

Both men are 39 years old and seeking their first state-wide office. Mr. DeSantis shot to prominence in the Republican primary when he got the enthusiastic endorsement of President Trump, while Mr. Gillum has been able to tap the deep pockets of left-wing financiers like George Soros and Tom Steyer to help raise funds.

Republicans have worked hard since Mr. Gillum’s emergence to tie him to an FBI investigation into alleged chicanery in Tallahassee’s City Hall. Some of the mayor’s closest friends have been named as targets in the probe, although so far it has not touched Mr. Gillum directly.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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