Florida Senate Race Close

By John Celock

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R) has a narrow two point lead over his Democratic rival as he tries to return to the Senate for a second term.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday shows that the former GOP presidential candidate is in a tight battle against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) in the Sunshine State. The poll showed that independent voters in the swing state are almost evenly split in the battle, with Murphy garnering 47 percent in this category and Rubio 46 percent. Rubio easily leads amongst Republicans and Murphy leading among Democrats.

Murphy, 33-year-old second term congressman, is a top recruit for Senate Democrats, who have made Florida one of their top targets all cycle. Rubio originally did not seek a second term, focusing first on his White House run. He reentered the Senate race over the summer, scrambling a Republican field that was largely trailing Murphy. Murphy, a moderate, won the Democratic nomination against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who challenged Murphy from the left.

The poll was taken prior to Murphy and Rubio facing off in a fierce debate Monday evening. The presidential contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton took center stage with Murphy challenging Rubio on whether he trusted Trump with the nuclear codes and Rubio saying that he did not believe American voters had the best choice for president. At the end of his presidential race, Rubio emerged as a vocal critic of Trump as part of an attempt to stop the New York businessman from capturing the GOP nomination.

Rubio and Murphy also used the debate to focus on foreign policy, with Rubio saying that foreign affairs would be at the top of his second term agenda. Rubio had reentered the Senate contest based largely on foreign policy and homeland security and made his seats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Intelligence Committee central to his reelection and presidential bids. Murphy touted his seat on the House Intelligence Committee during the debate.

Murphy pressed Rubio on his Senate attendance record, while Rubio focused on Murphy’s touting of being a practicing CPA. Reports have shown that while Murphy holds a CPA license in Colorado he does not have the license in Florida, which has a larger education requirement for a CPA license than Colorado. Murphy had worked for the accounting firm of Deloitte and Touche in the firm’s Miami office for two and a half years, less than a year of which occurred after receiving his CPA license. Before and after his tenure at Deloitte, Murphy worked as an executive for a construction firm owned by his father.

Rubio’s Senate attendance record has been a point of contention in the Senate and presidential contests. Rivals, including Murphy, have criticized Rubio for the amount of time he spent campaigning nationally rather than attending to Senate duties in Washington. During the debate, Murphy said that his attendance record on the House intelligence panel was better than Rubio’s on the Senate panel.

Murphy also challenged Rubio to pledge to not run for the presidency in 2020. Rubio said that he intended to spend the next six years as a senator.

If elected, Murphy would be the youngest senator in the country, taking the title from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), 39. Murphy is one of two thirty-something Democrats with chances of capturing Senate seats this year. In Missouri, Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander, 35, is locked in a tight race with Republican Sen. Roy Blunt.