Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter could jump into the race for Florida governor and become the Democratic front runner if he taps former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly as his running mate and pledges to forsake partisanship and “get things done,” Murphy’s pollster says.
The poll, first reported by Politico, shows a wide-open race for the Democratic nomination and challenges the conventional wisdom that Democrats win primaries by running to the left.
Murphy recently gave his OK to a poll that pits him against already-declared Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine. In an initial ballot test of likely Democratic voters with Murphy in the mix, pollster Keith Frederick found former Miami Beach Mayor Levine leading the pack at 20 percent with Murphy and former Rep. Graham tied for second at 14 percent.
The poll then asked about Murphy teaming up with Republican Jolly, describing the ticket “as a clear sign Murphy would be a different kind of governor who would work together with reasonable Republicans in Tallahassee to set aside Florida’s old, partisan politics and get things done.”
After that favorable messaging, Murphy led with 21 percent, followed by Levine at 17 percent and Graham at 12 percent.
Murphy represented a Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast swing district in Congress from 2013 to 2017, compiling an overall liberal record but voting with Republicans more often than most of his fellow Democrats. He left his House seat to run for U.S. Senate in 2016, losing the general election to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
Since leaving office, Murphy has joined Jolly in touring college campuses to decry partisan gridlock and dysfunction in Washington. Jolly, who served a single term in Congress as a Republican, frequently appears on TV as a critic of President Donald Trump.
With primaries historically dominated by the most partisan voters in each party, Democratic candidates traditionally burnish their liberal credentials while Republicans usually run to the right.
But Frederick’s poll found 70 percent of Democrats favoring a “moderate Democrat who is willing to work together with reasonable Republicans to get things done” and only 22 percent preferring “a liberal who is committed to fighting for true progressive policies without compromise.”
Frederick polled 750 likely Democratic voters April 23-28. The survey has a 3.6 percent margin of error.
Murphy didn’t respond to a request for comment Friday. He downplayed his interest in running for governor last week.
“Some supporters wanted to do a poll and I didn’t say no,” Murphy told The Palm Beach Post before the poll was complete. “I certainly didn’t say yes to actually running!”