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Marian Johnson: Donald Trump needs to get out white voters; Hillary Clinton, independent voters

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The close presidential race in Florida offers two very different paths to victory for the candidates, with Donald Trump‘s campaign needing to bring out white voters and Hillary Clinton needing to appeal to independent voters, according to Florida Chamber of Commerce polling guru Marian Johnson.

Johnson laid out the latest findings of the chamber’s political polling Thursday night at the Future of Florida Forum in Orlando, showing Democrat Clinton with a two-point lead overall in a Sept. 16 survey, a five-point improvement for her since an Aug. 16 poll.

The polling shows both candidates are enormously unpopular, but both getting 78 percent of their party base. They’re fighting at this point over 6 percent of voters who declared they are undecided, said Johnson, the vice president for political operations for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson got 8 percent in the latest poll and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, 4 percent.

“This race is just too close to call,” she said at the chamber’s leadership banquet.

The two major candidates each have paths to victory, she said: Trump, who leads among white voters 51 to 34 percent, has to turn out white voters in the election. Clinton leads in almost every other demographic, but finds surprising strength among independent and third-party voters, leading Trump 45 to 25 percent in the chamber poll, she said.

But that does not include many young voters.

“There is no definitive direction. I can tell you Hillary is not getting the millennial vote. She is not going to get the millennial vote. They’ll just undervote,” Johnson said. “They don’t interpret her as being sincere. She says the right things to them, but they are not interpreting her as sincere at all.”

Chamber polling also showed voters down on both U.S. Senate candidates, Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, with both of them getting slightly more unfavorable than favorable ratings. Overall, Rubio holds a four-point advantage, 46 percent to 42 percent, and Johnson predicted Rubio would win, though she added that it is a race “that is probably going to go down to the wire too.”

All Florida Constitution amendment issues on the ballot appear to be passing.

Amendment 1, dealing with solar energy, is getting 66 percent approval and just 18 percent disapproval. Amendment 2, medical marijuana, has 73 percent approval and 23 percent disapproval. Amendment 3, tax exemptions for disabled first responders, has 85 percent support. Constitutional changes need 60 percent of the vote to pass.

Johnson said there appears to be little change in the wind in the makeup of the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives. So many seats already have been decided, and so few are in play, she said. Republicans certainly will retain control of both houses.

Another finding of the polls indicates Floridians are feeling better about themselves and their futures. 39 percent now say they are better off than before and another 37 percent, “about the same.” That means only 24 percent feel they are worse off, a strong improvement over recent years.

Gov. Rick Scott is benefiting from that, as voters now believe he’s doing a good job. His job performance approval now is positive by 10 points, even though voters still do not like him personally, with a slight majority still having an unfavorable opinion of him.

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]

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