While Republican Rick Scott battles Democrat Alex Sink in a tight gubernatorial contest, Republicans hold steady 9- to 13-point leads for Florida's three other Cabinet-level positions, according to a Sunshine State News Poll.
The latest overnight tracking survey, conducted Oct. 27-28, shows GOP candidates maintaining healthy margins in all three races.
Attorney general: Pam Bondi leading Dan Gelber, 51-42.
Agriculture commissioner: Adam Putnam over Scott Maddox, 48-37.
Chief financial officer: Jeff Atwater trouncing Loranne Ausley, 51-38.
"We're seeing the 'generic ballot' effect here," said Jim Lee, president of Voter Survey Service, which conducted the poll for Sunshine State News. "The Republicans' name identification isn't necessarily superior, but people are more predisposed to vote Republican this year."
Seth McKee, political science professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, agrees.
"These polls are not surprising and I'm sure they are pretty accurate," he said. "The lower down the ticket you go, the less exposure to the candidate and, hence, the less information a voter has on them.
"The media don't spend much ink or air time on these races, so partisans will basically vote their party," McKee said.
In a year of revved-up conservatives, the voting patterns bode well for Republican candidates, even though Democrats hold an edge in overall statewide voter registration.
Brian Crowley, editor of the Crowley Political Report, says Republicans have simply out-organized their opposition at all levels.
"Florida Democrats have not had a unified voice or message.Cabinet candidates always struggle to get voter attention and money always makes the difference.
"Republican Cabinet candidates have done a better job of raising money and the Florida Republican Party has put more muscle behind their candidates," Crowley said from his Palm Beach office.
The 2010 election is historic on several levels. It is the first time in 120 years that all four Cabinet-level positions have been open at the same time, with no incumbents seeking re-election.
In recent years, Republicans and Democrats have split the offices, and most races have been more closely contested than they appear to be this fall.
In 2006, for example, only Republican Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson won his race by double digits. Sink beat Republican Tom Lee by 7 points to prevent the GOP from sweeping the Cabinet.
In 1998, when there were seven elected Cabinet positions, Democrats won three of the offices.
This year, Bondi, Putnam and Atwater have built solid leads by locking down their Republican base and winning over independents.
Putnam carries 37 percent of independent voters, even with four candidates in the contest. Maddox garners just 29 percent of independents.
Atwater grabs 46 percent of independents vs. 36 percent for Ausley.
In the attorney general race, Bondi closely trails Gelber among independents, 44-41, but she handily outpolls her Democratic foe in every region of the state except his home base of Southeast Florida.
In each of the three contests, Republicans have held or increased the leads they established when Sunshine State News began nightly polling of those races on Oct. 14.
Putnam fared best over the past two weeks, expanding his 5-point margin to 11 points.
Whether it's the "generic ballot" effect, superior campaign organization, better name identification or a combination of those factors, Lee concludes that Republicans are poised to sweep the three down-ballot races.
"Democrats are in a difficult position here," he says.
The Sunshine State News nightly tracking poll surveyed 1,578 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 2.47 percent.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or (772) 801-5341.