A third poll conducted in recent weeks in the GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen shows television journalist Maria Elvira Salazar with a double-digit lead but the potential for Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro and songwriter Angie Chirino, the daughter of Cuban pop sensation Willy Chirino, to make the primary competitive if they run to Salazar's right on guns.
The poll conducted on behalf of Chirino's campaign on behalf of Big Data Polling shows Salazar with a 10 percentage point lead over Barreiro, with Chirino close behind Barreiro in third. Salazar took 26.5 percent support among 531 likely GOP primary voters in a poll conducted from June 22 to 25. Barreiro received 16.8 percent while Chirino received 13.3 percent support in the poll, which was conducted in English and Spanish with a four percent margin of error.
“While Salazar is clearly ahead, she is not in the clear,” Big Data Director Rich Baris said. “We know from this latest and prior surveys that the Chirino name is recognizable and draws a certain level of support from the Cuban community.”
Interestingly, the poll asked GOP voters about Salazar's comments to Univision in March where she said, "I do not see the need for civilians to buy semiautomatic weapons." Just over one-third of voters (37.2%) said the comment made them “more likely” to support Salazar, while a 36.6% of voters said it would make them “less likely” to vote for Salazar.
“This gives us a good idea of the percentage of voters who have truly made up their mind to support Salazar and which voters can still be persuaded. The campaign now needs to focus on making their case to those soft voters," Baris said. “Start to peel away some of that soft support, and we would essentially have a three-way race.”
Salazar is clearly the front-runner just under two months from Election Day, though none of the candidates in the race so far have a major advantage over one another when it comes to name ID in Ros-Lehtinen's district. Ros-Lehtinen said she will not explicitly endorse anyone in the primary, which would be a major advantage in a district where the moderate Republican remains popular despite the district voting for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 19 percentage points in 2016. Democrats see Ros-Lehtinen's district as a prime pickup opportunity in 2018.