Rush Limbaugh's one of the most influential figures in American politics who's never run for office...but what if he did run for office? His home state of Florida has an incumbent Democratic Senator up for reelection next cycle in Bill Nelson and we tested to see how Rush would do as the Republican challenger against Nelson.
The answer is not so well. Nelson leads Limbaugh 50-36 in that hypothetical match up. Nelson would have his party base pretty well locked up, independents would go for him overwhelmingly by a 58-30 margin, and even 21% of Republicans say they'd prefer Nelson to Limbaugh.
Limbaugh simply isn't very well liked. A majority of voters in the state, at 53%, have an unfavorable opinion of him to only 35% who see him positively. He is pretty well liked with Republicans at a 64/22 spread but independents strongly dislike him at 23/67 and certainly it's no surprise that only 13% of Democrats like him.
It's no surprise Limbaugh wouldn't be the toughest challenger to Nelson but whoever the Republicans put up is likely to have an uphill battle. Nelson's approval numbers aren't outstanding at a 40/35 spread. But what stands out is that he's unusually popular with Republicans in this highly polarized political climate (26% approval) and he's on positive ground with independents at 38/35. The reason his overall numbers aren't great is that he has only a 55% approval rating with Democrats but most of the ones who don't approve of him would still vote for him anyway given the choice between him and a Republican.
We also tested a more likely Nelson opponent in Connie Mack IV. He trails a hypothetical contest 42-33, doing better with independents than Limbaugh and losing fewer Republicans. Mack is an unknown quantity to 60% of voters in the state with 18% of those familiar with him rating him favorably and 21% unfavorably.
A PPP poll in July looking forward found Nelson leading Jeb Bush 46-44 and George LeMieux 49-28. This race has the potential to be competitive but the Republicans can't nominate just anyone to make it so.
Full results here