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Donald Trump is widening his lead among Republican voters in Florida, with 48 percent favoring the part-time Palm Beacher in a new Florida Atlantic University poll and Ted Cruz a distant second at 16 percent.
Home-state favorites Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush get 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
FAU’s poll shows Hillary Clinton leading the Democratic race in Florida with a 62-to-26 percent lead over Bernie Sanders.
In Florida’s open Senate race to replace Rubio, Rep. Alan Grayson holds a 27-to-20 percent advantage over Rep. Patrick Murphy among Democrats, with 45 percent undecided.
On the Republican side, Rep. David Jolly gets 28 percent while Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Rep. Ron DeSantis claim 8 percent apiece with 50 percent undecided.
The Senate primaries and other non-presidential primaries are on Aug. 30.
FAU conducted the poll Jan. 15-18. The Republican and Democratic samples of likely primary voters each have a 5 percent margin of error. The overall statewide sample of 1,008 voters has a 3 percent margin of error.
With all the major presidential candidates viewed unfavorably by Florida voters, hypothetical general election match-ups are all close.
Trump leads Clinton by a 47-to-44 percent margin. Clinton beats Cruz, 47 percent to 42 percent. Rubio and Clinton are tied at 46 percent and Bush leads Clinton 45 percent to 42 percent.
ORLANDO — South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham slammed Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton‘s handling of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks and focused on national security during his speech to the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit.
Graham also said Florida has “two wonderful candidates” in the presidential race. Four Florida residents are running: Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. A fifth, billionaire Donald Trump, is a part-time Palm Beach resident.
“If we’re not willing to talk about that with her, then we shouldn’t be running,” Graham said of the terrorist attacks in which four Americans were killed.
When Clinton was secretary of state, Graham said, “When people needed her, when she should have had their backs, she was not there…Some people think Benghazi does not matter. It matters a hell of a lot to me.”
Graham, often glib, was somber for most of his speech.
“You’re going to do a lot of cheering today,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of red-meat stuff said. I’ve taken a different approach for one reason: If we don’t change our foreign policy, soon, we’re going to pay a heavy price.”
MORE FROM THE SUNSHINE SUMMIT:
Small checks can add up to big bucks.
The two poll-topping candidates who’ll occupy center stage in Wednesday night’s third Republican presidential debate — part-time Palm Beacher Donald Trump and West Palm Beach resident Ben Carson — are also the candidates who have raised the largest share of their campaign cash from small donors.
Retired neurosurgeon Carson raised $31.3 million through Sept. 30 — with $19.6 million, or 63 percent, coming from people giving $200 or less.
Trump, despite his billionaire status and pledge to self-finance his campaign, has attracted $3.9 million in contributions, with $2.8 million of that — 72 percent — coming from people who gave $200 or less.
The contributions to Trump have been entirely unsolicited, his campaign says. First-time candidate Carson, however, has spent heavily on donor lists, direct mail appeals and phone solicitations to build his contributor base.
By comparison, only 5 percent of the $24.8 million raised by Republican establishment favorite Jeb Bush has come from small contributors. And less than 1 percent of the $103 million raised by the Bush-backing Right To Rise super PAC through June 30 came from people who gave $200 or less.
The Federal Election Commission requires campaigns to list the name, address and occupation of people who give more than $200, whether it’s in a single check or multiple contributions. Money from people giving $200 or less can be lumped together as “unitemized” gifts on FEC reports.
Raising money in little pieces rather than fat checks can give populist credibility to a campaign. It also gives a candidate a list of supporters who can be hit up for more money before reaching the federal individual contribution limit of $2,700 for a primary and $2,700 for a general election.
Democrat Bernie Sanders has been the most prolific small-dollar candidate, raising $30.7 million — more than three-quarters of his contributions — in unitemized donations. Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton has raised $13.3 million from small donors, or 17 percent of her campaign’s $77 million haul. The pro-Clinton Priorities USA super PAC raised $15.7 million through June 30, with only $1,092 in unitemized gifts.
Small dollars aren’t necessarily cheap. Carson’s campaign incurred $11.2 million in fundraising costs last quarter to bring in $20.7 million – a burn rate that has raised some eyebrows.
“The fundraising is reflective of the campaign. The campaign is really a campaign of the people,” says Carson’s national finance chairman, Dean Parker, a former tech company CEO who has never worked on a political campaign before.
Parker said Carson had to spend heavily to raise money because he’s not a politician.
“We didn’t have a donor list when we started. We had to go and track donors. Every other campaign had donors,” said Parker, who expects Carson’s fundraising costs to go down.
Carson has placed second to Trump in most national GOP polls over the last two months, but he led Trump in a CBS News/New York Times survey released Tuesday. The poll showed Carson favored by 26 percent of Republican primary voters and Trump preferred by 22 percent.
“Carson’s gross (fundraising) numbers are impressive,” said Brian Ballard, a Tallahassee lobbyist who is a fundraiser for Bush. But Ballard also noted Carson’s high cost of attracting contributions. And he said big donors come in handy in the long haul.
“Having the institutional money matters in terms of being able to compete with Democrats,” Ballard said.
Trump, at a rally in Doral last week, mocked Bush’s fundraising.
“Jeb Bush has $125 million – honestly, I don’t think it’s going to help him,” Trump said while arguing that major contributors expect something in return from politicians.
“Hey look, I used to be one of those guys that gave a lot of money,” Trump said.
While decrying super PACs and challenging other candidates to disavow them, Trump boasted about the people giving small contributions to his campaign.
“People send in small donations. Like, small ones. A woman — $7.50 with about a four-page letter. Another woman $50, $30, $90…” Trump said.
“But that I love because, number one, you can’t send it back. How do you send a letter back to a woman who loves the country, who’s giving a lot of money – that’s like giving $1 million to a rich person. How do you send the $7.50 back? You can’t…There’s no letter you can write to that woman to say ‘We don’t want your money.’”
Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton will visit the North Palm Beach home of prominent trial lawyer Fred Cunningham for an Oct. 2 fundraiser.
The event carries a $2,700-a-head price tag.
Cunningham is a former president of the Florida Justice Association who has raised money for several Democrats.
After the North Palm Beach event, Clinton is expected to go to previously announced fundraisers that day in Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
It’s unclear whether Clinton will appear at any public events while she’s in Florida.
During her last visit to the Sunshine State on July 31, Clinton slammed Jeb Bush in a speech to the National Urban League conference in Fort Lauderdale and called for lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba in a speech at Florida International University in Miami.
Clinton did only closed-door money events when she visited Florida in May.