Justice: Webster up 7 over Grayson

Actually, justice would be too strong of a word.  Justice, in this case, would be Alan Grayson falling 27 points behind Dan Webster after the smears that the Democrat from Florida has conducted in his desperate bid to cling to power.  But take heart; the latest Sunshine State Poll was conducted mainly before the smear in the “Taliban Dan” ad was exposed and widely condemned, which means Grayson may still be hurtling downward:

In one of the most closely watched U.S. House races in the nation, Republican Daniel Webster now holds a 7-point lead over Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson in Central Florida’s 8th Congressional District, according to a new Sunshine State News Poll.

Webster, a former state senator, leads the freshman congressman 43-36 in the survey of 559 likely voters conducted Sept. 25-27. TEA (“Taxed Enough Already”) Party candidate Peg Dunmire drew 6 percent and NPA hopeful George Metcalfe garnered 3 percent, while 9 percent remained undecided (2 percent cited “other” and 1 percent refused to state).

Digging deeper, the numbers look even worse for Grayson as 51 percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable view of the Orlando-area congressman.

Grayson insisted that he ran the ad to defend women, but “women really loathe him,” pollster James Lee reports.  Among female voters, Grayson has a 33/53 favorability rating, and Webster beats him by twelve points, 45/33.  That gap probably explains why Grayson wanted to attack on abortion rights, which is certainly a legitimate area of debate, but his despicable “Taliban Dan” attack not only made Grayson look even more sleazy and dishonest, it took all the oxygen out of the argument he wanted to make, as Contessa Brewer pointed out on MSNBC yesterday.

Grayson may be even worse off after the dust settles.  Until now, Grayson has won a plurality of independents in FL-08, an absolute necessity in an R+2 district.  In this poll Grayson has a 42/33 lead over Webster with unaffiliated voters, but that’s not likely to continue after the controversy over his ads crests.  Democrats will stick with Grayson — they have little choice — but independents can either back Webster or one of the other candidates in the race, and they probably will start moving towards one of the other three shortly.

If they do start moving, it will likely be towards Webster anyway.  Sunshine State News quotes Lee, who explains that pollsters saw similar trends in New Jersey last year:

“There was an independent candidate getting double-digit support in all the polling (including ours), but by the time Election Day rolled around voters realized it was a wasted vote and he only got 7 percent, which meant Christie was able to defeat Corzine with less than 50 percent of the vote. If I were Webster, I would be trying to convince conservative Republicans that a vote for Dunmire/Metcalfe is a vote for the incumbent.”

One has to wonder whether Grayson’s loathsome attacks might expedite that process, too.  After seeing Grayson in action, those voters who might have been dissatisfied with Webster on certain issues may well decide that the danger of splitting the vote and re-electing Grayson is too high to vote for an alternative.  The attacks have certainly lit a fire under Webster’s fundraising; he has taken in more than $70,000 since Grayson’s ad ran.  With their numbers only in the single digits in this poll, those alternatives look a lot like a re-election strategy for Grayson, and will look more like that as voters hit the polls in five weeks.