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Little-Known Candidates Make US Senate Race 'Cloudy'

Florida could be a key state next year in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

But first, Florida voters will have to figure out who is running.

A poll released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University continues to show that voters know little about the candidates seeking to replace presidential candidate Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

The numbers are particularly striking on the Republican side of the race, where 86 percent of voters said they hadn't heard enough about Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera or U.S. Rep. David Jolly to offer opinions about them. Similarly, 87 percent said they hadn't heard enough to have an opinion of U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and 92 percent said the same of Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox — two other announced GOP candidates in the race.

The poll didn't bring much better news for the Democratic Senate hopefuls. U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is backed by many party leaders, but 81 percent of voters said they haven't heard enough to give an opinion about the Treasure Coast congressman.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson was the best known of the candidates — only 67 percent of voters said they hadn't heard enough to offer an opinion about him. But the outspoken Grayson also had the highest negatives of any of the candidates — with 22 percent of voters having an unfavorable view of him.

In an analysis released with the poll results, Quinnipiac described the Florida Senate race as "cloudy."

"With control of the U.S. Senate in play in 2016, political observers will be watching Florida, where there is a pack of largely unknown contenders," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a prepared statement.

The numbers largely mirror conclusions from polls released earlier this summer by Quinnipiac and Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc.

Rubio's decision to run for president instead of seeking re-election opened up a swing-state seat as Republicans try to fend off a Democratic challenge for control of the Senate.

The poll released Tuesday indicates Rubio would have been difficult to beat if he had decided to seek a second term. It found that 57 percent of voters approve of the way Rubio is handling his job, while 31 percent disapprove.

The Connecticut-based Quinnipiac, which frequently polls in Florida and other states, surveyed 1,093 Florida voters from Aug. 7 to Aug. 18. The poll has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Jim Saunders is the Executive Editor of The News Service Of Florida.