Rep. Allen West (R-FL) is leading his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy by nine points, according to a new FLDemocracy/WPTV/ TCPalm poll released Thursday.
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Among likely voters surveyed, 51 percent support West and 42 percent back Murphy. Eight percent are undecided.
The same poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), found Mitt Romney leading President Barack Obama in District 18 by a 50 percent to 45 percent margin.
The battle for the 18 th congressional district, which includes Martin, St. Lucie and northern Palm Beach counties, is one of the closest watched races in the country. The race has been characterized by a flood of advertising--most of which is coming from West who has outspent his Democratic challenger by 4-1.
In late September, West released a blistering attack ad featuring a mug shot of Murphy from a bar fight he got into when he was 19-years-old.
The Republican Party of Florida recently sent out a mailer embezzled with a photo of a burning American flag, accusing Murphy of being "backed by groups that are opposed to the defense of Israel." Last week, West's campaign put out a mailer of Murphy next to painting of Mao Zedong .
In a sign that West's ads are paying off, Murphy's favorability numbers are significantly underwater in the PPP survey. Only 34 percent of likely voters view Murphy favorably and 47 percent view him unfavorably. On the other hand, 49 percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of West, to 41 percent unfavorable.
"Negative advertising seems to have taken more of a toll on Patrick Murphy then on Allen West," said Jim Williams, a polling analyst at Public Policy Polling.
Asked about the flood of negative ads in the race, 31 percent said the spots have made them more likely to vote for West, while 27 percent said they have made them more likely to back Murphy.
"West owes his overall 9-point lead to a 52-34 advantage among independent voters. He also earns more support from Republicans than Murphy does from Democrats," said Williams.
West, who has developed a reputation as a Tea Party firebrand, has struggled in the past to win over independents and women—two groups that broke for him in the PPP poll. According to the survey, West has a 18-point advantage with independents and a nine-point lead among women.
The party identification breakdown for the poll was 40 percent Republican, 32 percent Democrat and 29 percent independent/other.
The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted from October 15-16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
The Murphy campaign disputes the numbers. Here is the statement of Eric Johnson, senior advisor to the Murphy campaign.
"The PPP poll has oversampled Republicans, they're showing a seven point Republican advantage when the voter registration has only a three point Republican advantage. They've also oversampled Martin County which is only 20 percent of the district and it's 26 percent in the poll. Our internal poll shows this as a dead heat."