With the odds increasing that Marco Rubio will not seek re-election in favor of a run for the presidency, the maneuvering among potential 2016 Senate candidates is well in motion.
"It's very early, but he's being encouraged to seriously consider bringing the people's voice to the U.S. Senate. And he always listens closely to Floridians," Kevin Cate, an aide to perennial candidate and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, told CNN
Crist, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat in 2014 to unseat Gov. Rick Scott and failed as a Republican candidate for Senate in 2010, is just one of the potential Democratic candidates considering a run for the Senate in 2016 should Rubio decide not to seek re-election.
According to a Mason-Dixon poll
released on Tuesday, if Rubio decides to seek re-election, he would comfortably defeat either of the probable Democratic candidates.
The survey shows Rubio would beat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz by a 53 percent to 36 percent margin, and would win 50 percent to 38 percent in a match up with Rep. Patrick Murphy.
While Murphy is familiar to only 33 percent of Florida voters, compared with the 76 percent who recognize Wasserman Schultz, he would fare better against the incumbent Republican senator.
Also working in Murphy's favor is that, in terms of unfavorable ratings, his are lower than Wasserman Schultz's in the Mason-Dixon poll.
Wasserman Schultz, who heads the Democratic National Committee, is less certain to run to replace Rubio than Murphy, who has said he likely will launch a campaign regardless of who the Republican nominee might be.
"Congressman Murphy is actively considering a run for the U.S. Senate and is close to making a decision. He is discussing a potential race with supporters and is being encouraged to run by Floridians from across the state," said an email sent this week from Murphy's office to Politico
"His decision will be based on how he can best serve the people of Florida, not on who may or may not enter this race," added the congressman's communications office.
If Rubio opts to run for the Republican presidential nomination, the chances of the GOP keeping control of the seat remain strong.
The Mason-Dixon survey finds Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater leading both Democrats, but Wasserman Schultz does better against Atwater than Rubio.
Against Murphy, Atwater leads 46–32 percent, but Atwater holds a smaller lead (45–35 percent) over Wasserman Schultz.
However, a recent Gravis Marketing survey found Atwater trailing Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in the Republican primary race, according to The Sunshine State News
According to the Gravis marketing poll, Bondi leads with 36 percent over Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (12 percent) and Atwater (9 percent).
However, more than 43 percent of Florida primary voters said they were unsure who they would vote in 2016.
Republican Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera might also be weighing a run for the Senate, according to Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores, who is friends with both Lopez-Cantera and Rubio.
"I know Carlos is seriously considering a Senate run. He is keeping all his options open," Flores told Politico.
"It is still early in the game and everything hinges on Rubio's final decision. In the meantime, other candidates may surface as Democrats try to determine who would give them the best chance to put the Florida Senate seat in play during the 2016 presidential election cycle," said J. Branford Coker, Mason-Dixon's managing director, said in a press release.
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