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Democratic poll: Joe Garcia leads Carlos Curbelo


A public-opinion poll of the hotly contested race for Florida's 26th congressional district shows incumbent Rep. Joe Garcia ahead of Republican opponent Carlos Curbelo, national Democrats said Friday.

Garcia leads Curbelo 45-40 percent, with 15 percent of respondents undecided, according to the poll by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The poll surveyed 400 likely voters, as identified by their voting record, in English and Spanish. Its error margin is 4.8 percent.

The survey was conducted from Sept. 28-Oct. 1. Democrats didn't release it until Friday -- nine days later -- after Republicans touted a second poll showing Curbelo in the lead.

The first GOP survey was commissioned by Curbelo and the second by Saint Leo University Polling Institute, which relied on automated telephone calls that tend to skew results toward older, more conservative voters with land lines. Saint Leo, which polled from Oct. 1-6, found Curbelo ahead 46-42 percent, with an error margin of 5 percent.

"Garcia's scandals are clearly hurting the freshman congressman," Katie Prill, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an email. 

Privately, political observers from both side have said the race is tight, with the candidates separated by only 1 or 2 percentage points -- essentially a tie. The district encompasses Westchester to Key West.

A memo by the DCCC summarizing its poll results says Garcia is winning independent voters with 51 percent of support, and that if undecided voters are split based on their party registration, Garcia's lead increases to 53-47 percent. Among poll respondents, 42 percent were Republican, 34 percent Democrat and 24 percent without political-party affiliation.

"The results of the survey come on the heels of increased communication highlighting Curbelo's comments in Washington calling Medicare and Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme,' indicating that Curbelo has done significant damage to himself and that this is a powerful line of attack in South Florida," the DCCC said.

The party declined to release further poll details, including support for each candidate by respondents' ethnicity.