Patrick Murphy says he’s tied with Allen West in race for Congress

May 14, 2012

By GEORGE BENNETT, Palm Beach Post

Regardless of whether you believe Democrat Patrick Murphy’s poll that says he’s tied with Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West, there’s no disputing the underlying competitiveness of the new Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 congressional seat that emerged in this year’s redistricting.

Murphy last week released portions of an internal poll showing him tied with West at 45 percent in District 18. Mitt Romney edges President Obama by a 49-to-46 percent margin in the same district, according to the poll by Democratic pollster Keith Frederick.

West campaign manager Tim Edson called the Murphy poll “pathetic,” but declined to reveal the West camp’s internal numbers.

“I cannot believe that would be true,” U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, said of the Murphy numbers. Rooney’s current district includes much of what will be District 18 after the November elections.

While doubting Murphy’s poll, Rooney acknowledges the new District 18 is no slam dunk for a Republican. Rooney decided in January to run in a new, more rural and Republican district to the west. Part of the reason, Rooney said, is that staying in District 18 would require raising major money and withstanding a tough Democratic challenge every two years.

In the new District 18, Republicans hold a 38-to-37.3 percent registration edge. Democrat Obama carried the district by 3 points in 2008 while Republican Rick Scott prevailed by 2 points in the 2010 governor’s race.

National tea party celebrity West, who now represents Palm Beach-Broward District 22, is already known by more than four out of five voters in District 18, with opinion of him split between positive and negative, according to Murphy’s poll.

Murphy is largely unknown. Only 14 percent of voters viewed him favorably and 12 percent unfavorably, with 74 percent not having an opinion.

That means first-time candidate Murphy is polling more as a generic Democrat than as an individual candidate. Murphy, who began April with $1 million in his campaign account, will spend money to introduce himself. West will undoubtedly spend a good chunk of his $3.3 million war chest to try to define Murphy as well.

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