WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — How can a wildly expensive Senate campaign be an undercard?
Apparently, when you have an open-seat race for governor with a quickly emerging Democratic star running against a former congressman aligned with President Donald Trump.
Two election-eve polls show the Democrats in both the gubernatorial and Senate races running ahead. A new NBC News-Marist poll has the Democratic candidates for each office up by four percentage points, within the survey’s margin of error among likely voters.
Quinnipiac, meanwhile, released its latest Florida poll showing the Democrats ahead by seven points in each contest, well outside the poll’s margin of error.
The polling suggesting there will not be much crossover voting might be working to the particular advantage of Bill Nelson, the incumbent Democratic senator here.
Nelson seems to have hitched his electoral wagon to Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor and Tallahasee mayor who has generated substantial excitement among Democrats.
When Nelson took the stage Saturday afternoon at a joint rally with his party’s gubernatorial pick here Saturday, the third-term senator had very little to say on stage beyond introducing Gillum ahead of an acoustic performance by Jimmy Buffett at an event sponsored by Florida Democrats.
Buffett, a longtime Florida Democrat and environmental activist, changed some lyrics for the event.
“Some people say that there’s a red tide to blame/ but I know, it’s Rick Scott’s fault,” he sang.
The “red tide” line referred to algae blooms affecting Florida’s waters
that Democrats have long accused Scott of mismanaging.
That Nelson would not be taking the limelight was not really a surprise to the senator’s supporters.
Before he arrived on stage, Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel warmed up the crowd by saying she had been barred from Trump’s nearby Mar-a-Lago estate and a compliment for Nelson’s work if no one would to compete with Gillum in terms of bringing out crowds.
“Listen, I know the guy’s not flashy,” Frankel said on the amphitheater stage. “But I will tell you this: he is hardworking, he is dependable and he tells the truth.”
Many in the Sunshine State have already voted, with early voting ended Sunday.
Both Senate candidates have been running around the state. Sunday brought Nelson to Kissimmee for a GOTV rally that featured Eva Longoria, Zoe Saldana and America Ferrara, while Gov. Rick Scott, fresh off a Saturday night appearance at a rally with Trump in the Florida Panhandle, made Sunday stops including in Broward County.
Scott held court with members of the Bikers for Trump group Sunday afternoon at a bar in Fort Lauderdale, encouraging supporters of the president to bring their friends to the polls to vote for Republicans, including the gubernatorial bid of former Rep. Ron DeSantis.
He said at the event with the bikers that he spoke with Trump between a couple of stops at churches on Sunday morning.
“We can win in these elections, there’s no reason we should lose,” Scott told the crowd. “If we go out and fight for our votes, then we’re going to win.”
DeSantis spent part of his Sunday a few exits north on I-95 in Boca Raton, campaigning alongside special guest former New York Mayor (and Trump lawyer) Rudy Giuliani.
Scott has won statewide at the top of the ticket twice, but now he has a new challenge of trying to knock off Nelson in a year in which the combined effect of Trump and Gillum could lead to a Democratic surge.
But speaking with Roll Call in Orlando on Friday, Scott exuded confidence.
“We’re going to win,” the governor said. “I don’t think there’s ever been public polls that have said I was going to win in these elections. I’ve had one primary and two generals, and they all said I was going to lose.”
“I’ve probably shaken hands with over a half-a-million people since I got elected, including my race in 2010,” Scott said.
Each day has brought new lines of attack between Nelson and Scott. On Sunday, it was Nelson criticizing Scott over the government efforts to address the needs of the Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican communities in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
“Of all the voters in Florida, Puerto Ricans can understand what is at stake in this election,” Nelson said at the Kissimmee event.
After the event with the bikers, Scott was asked to respond to Nelson renewing questions about the Maria response efforts. After highlighting a number of the steps undertaken by the state to assist in the response, Scott turned back to Nelson.
“He’s just a nervous, you know, career politician,” Scott said. “He knows he’s going to lose. He knows he doesn’t deserve to win.”
Watch: President Trump’s Halloween Rally in Florida