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Trump campaigns for Florida Republicans as poll shows Democratic gains

This article is more than 12 months old

Polls show Dems in the lead in Florida's top races as Trump offers up usual attacks on the stump

FLORIDA Democrats have pulled ahead in Florida's marquee races for the US Senate and governor, a new Reuters poll showed on Wednesday, as President Donald Trump returned to the battleground state in a bid to bail out Republicans.

US Senator Bill Nelson is leading Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott by 5 percentage points among likely voters, according to the Reuters/Ipsos /UVA Centre for Politics poll.

A win by Mr Nelson would be critical for Democrats' hopes of taking a majority in the Senate, which would require a gain of two seats in the Nov 6 elections.

Most opinion polls give Democrats a slim chance of winning control of the chamber, because they have to defend 10 seats in states that Mr Trump won in 2016, including Florida.

Addressing a crowd in Estero, Florida, Mr Trump reeled off his usual attacks on the Democrats, saying they stood for high taxes, crime, open borders and uncontrolled immigration.

It was the first stop on a six-day11-rally tour that will take Mr Trump to eight states, including Missouri, Indiana and Tennessee, which are also home to hard-fought Senate races.

Democrat Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, is holding on to momentum in his bid to become Florida's first black governor.

He drew the support of 50 per cent of likely voters, unchanged from the last Reuters polling a month ago, compared with 44 per cent for former US Representative Ron DeSantis.

Mr Gillum's candidacy may be boosting a Democratic ticket that includes Mr Nelson, who has opened up a significant lead in a Senate race - 49 per cent to 44 per cent for his opponent-that was tied last month in another Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The Democratic strength at the top of the ballot could affect half a dozen competitive contests across Florida for the US House of Representatives.

Democrats have a strong chance of winning at least the 23 seats needed to gain control of the House, and with it the power to derail Mr Trump's agenda.

Seeking to drive up turnout, Mr Trump in recent weeks has tossed out a rapid-fire set of policy proposals: Sending up to 15,000 troops to the border with Mexico to address illegal immigration, calling for a 10 per cent tax cut and floating a plan to reverse a guarantee of citizenship for everyone born in the US.


"This is a referendum on Donald Trump," said Professor Aubrey Jewett, a political science expert at the University of Central Florida.

"If DeSantis loses, that is a direct reflection on Trump in Florida and the power and influence that Trump has over Florida voters currently."

Although Mr Trump narrowly won Florida in the 2016 election, 51 per cent of likely voters in the state now disapprove of how he is handling the presidency, according to the new Reuters poll.

Florida Democrats are trying this year to turn out more young and diverse voters, who lean Democratic but often sit out midterm elections.

Leaders in the party hope Gillum's candidacy will see a repeat of the voting coalition that enabled former President Barack Obama to carry the state twice, before it swung for Trump.

Former president Barack Obama will stump for Gillum and Nelson in Miami on Friday.