Florida Insider Poll: Who’s Likely to Run in the 2016 Senate Race?

Today, Richard DeNapoli was a featured participant in the Tampa Bay Times Fla Insider Poll…here’s an excerpt…

Fla Insider Poll: Sizing up Fla’s ’16 US Senate race
Adam C. SmithAdam C. Smith, Times Political Editor
Friday, January 30, 2015 8:40am

An open U.S. Senate seat is usually a once-in-a-generation opportunity for ambitious poltiticians. And with Marco Rubio moving toward a presidential run and vowing he would not hang onto his senate seat as a fall-back, 2016 is shaping up to be another huge cyce for political dominoes to tumble in Florida — a state with countless credible Republican contenders and a tiny Democratic bench.

Who’s likely to run, and who’s not? Time for another Florida Insider Poll, taking the pulse of many of Florida’s most experienced and sophisticated political minds.

Nearly 130 Florida campaign professionals, fundraisers, lobbyists, political scientists, and the like participated and underscored how many more options Republicans have than beleaguered Florida Democrats. Still, there was wide agreement on the likely nominee, with 56 percent predicting Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater of Palm Beach County would wind up the GOP nominee.

At least initially, the field could be vast.

“If Marco doesn’t run, with a wide open seat, every current and former Republican elected and with a pulse will express interest in running. But it will quickly whittle down to a smaller field of serious contenders, including some of the folks elected statewide currently serving in term-limited positions in Tallahassee,” said a Republican.

The Democratic side of the equation is much tougher, with only one statewide elected Democrat, Bill Nelson, already serving in the U.S. Senate. The skimpiness of the Democratic bench is underscored with the Florida Insider Poll, with the two most common predictions being little-known relative newcomers, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Palm Beach County and newly elected U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Leon County.

“Either Graham or Murphy would be a good candidate for the Dems. To win, the Democrat needs to avoid a primary and hope the Republicans have a messy one,” one Democrat said.