Did a sex scandal hurt the Rep. Matt Gaetz enough for him to lose to the Democrats Rebecca Jones? A Panhandle-based polling company sees signs of vulnerability for the incendiary Republican, even in his dark red district.
New poll results from The Listener Group show that Gaetz’s popularity is at its lowest level in two years. Just under 50% of likely voters in Florida’s 1st Congressional District still view Gaetz positively, marking the first time he has fallen below 50% on Pensacola polling trendlines over the past two years.
Just over 30% consider the incumbent to be unfavorably or very unfavorably.
Her public reputation appears to have taken a major hit as a sex scandal persists in the headlines. Joel greenberg, formerly a close associate of Gaetz, is cooperate with federal investigators in Central Florida after pleading guilty to sex trafficking of a minor. Reports indicate more prosecutors have joined the case as she explores other potential targets, particularly Gaetz.
But pollsters say the headline of their poll is that voters might strongly consider a Democratic alternative. Jones, a former Florida Department of Health employee who gained national notoriety after claiming she was fired from the government. Ron DeSantis‘administration for refusing to manipulate data, deposited as Democratic candidate in CD 1.
Pollsters found that if the election were held today, around 34% of voters would vote Jones and less than 42% would vote Gaetz. That puts the Democrat within 8 percentage points of toppling the three-term holder, with more than 24% of voters still undecided.
The poll included responses from 532 probable voters in the district between October 8 and October 28.
“Taking a comprehensive look at this study, you will see that Gaetz is vulnerable in a siege where he was once considered unbeatable,” the pollsters wrote in a press release.
An eight-point gap can still be a lot of ground to secure, especially for a Democratic candidate and first-time Pensacola candidate. But pollsters say she actually holds a lead in two of the district’s three counties.
It is a rule of thumb in politics that incumbents seeking re-election want to vote above 50%. For Gaetz, these latest figures indicate remarkable vulnerability.
It should be noted that the poll is held This year released some of the most Democratic-friendly polls statewide in the 2022 election cycle. But The Listener Group in 2020 focused its polling efforts in the Panhandle, where Gaetz District is located. There he precisely predicted the outcome of most of the races he studied.
Gaetz faces other opposition as well. Phil Ehr, the Democratic candidate against Gaetz in 2020, hasn’t fundraised as aggressively as Jones this cycle, but still has an account open with the Federal Election Commission and leads her in cash.
Republicans Ralph mills and Jeremy Kelly also have federal accounts, and Greg Merk applied for the race with the State Elections Division.