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The Most Important Metric in Rubio v. Murphy

As Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) holds a consistent lead in the polls through mid-October, one metric stands out for his opponent Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL).

Murphy Hires Trump Friend

Florida was supposed to be one of the top Senate battlegrounds in 2016; instead, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) holds an impressive and consistent lead in the race against Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL).

The RealClearPolitics average has Rubio (47.2%) outperforming Donald Trump (42.8%) by about 4.5 points. Murphy (43.2%) underperforms Hillary Clinton (46.4%) by more than three points.

A deeper dive into recent polls reveals a key metric that is hurting Murphy and is unlikely to change before Election Day: awareness of Murphy.

The Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) released a poll on the Florida Senate race on October 14; it found Murphy’s net favorability (-7%) was roughly the same as Rubio’s (-6%), but a whopping 36% of voters were “not sure” of their opinion on Murphy. Only 16% of voters were “not sure” about Rubio.

The same poll showed Rubio crushing Murphy among voters who are “not sure” of who they’re voting for in the Trump vs. Clinton contest. Rubio holds a 53-9 lead on Murphy among voters who are undecided in the presidential contest.

These results echo a University of North Florida (UNF) finding from last week: 21% of voters have “never heard of” Murphy, and only 2% have “never heard of” Rubio.

WaPo argued the same in a piece on the Senate race published on Tuesday:

“A big problem for Murphy — one that the ads were supposed to solve — is name recognition. In the polls where he runs strongest, up to 30 percent of voters still have no opinion of Murphy.”

It’s not like Murphy has an excuse. He has been running for Senate since March 2015, he has spent millions of dollars, and he’s a sitting congressman.

Still, the decision by higher-ups in the Democratic Party this week to pull nearly all ad spending for Murphy in the race is a devastating blow – if only because it makes it impossible for him to up an already-low name ID.