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Say what? PPP survey reports Allen West leading GOP field of 2016 Senate candidates

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Allen West has been in the news a lot this week — but not for anything he’s done of late.

Despite outspending Democrat Patrick Murphy by a 4-1 ratio in his bid for re-election to Congress in 2012, the South Florida Tea Party favorite lost to Murphy in that celebrated race.

Now Murphy is running for the U.S. Senate, and West is … well, still apparently the head of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank. Before he took that position, West said he might have interest in running for the U.S. Senate seat currently being occupied by Marco Rubio. Though he hasn’t made any noises of late about that, the pollsters over at Public Policy Polling added West’s name to potential 2016 Senate candidates in Florida, and guess what?

Thirty-eight percent of Republican Party of Florida primary voters say he would be their top choice. Next closest in the survey is Attorney General Pam Bondi. Twenty-five percent say they’d like to see her run. Jeff Atwater gets just 12 percent, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera comes in at 8 percent.

Not surprisingly, West is particularly boosted by his 45 percent standing with “very conservative” voters. Although Atwater and Lopez-Cantera have been talked about more as potential candidates, PPP say “it’s pretty clear they wouldn’t be at the top of the list for Republican voters in the state at this point.”

That could change quickly if the folks see how poorly West does against Democrats in the survey.

Murphy leads West 41-39 percent, and firebrand Orlando-area Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson beats him by a 42-39 percent margin. Grayson has not declared his candidacy yet, but has been making strong noises that he’s likely to do so.

The survey shows that Lopez-Cantera performs weaker than West, however. The LG trails Grayson 40-36 percent and Murphy is 41-34 percent. Only 28 percent of voters tell PPP that they know enough about Lopez-Cantera to form an opinion.

It should be noted that all of these stats go out the window if Rubio opts to forego a presidential run and attempts to be re-elected to the Senate.

In presumptive one-on-one matches against a Democrat, no Republican does better in a would-be 2016 Senate matchup than Attorney General Pam Bondi. Thirty-eight percent of voters view her favorably to 32 percent with a negative opinion. She fares the strongest of the Republicans in hypothetical matchups, leading Grayson 45-42 and Murphy 45-41. Also leading both of the Democrats, although by a narrow margin, is Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. He’s up 41-40 on Grayson and 41-39 on Murphy. PPP writes that despite having now served in statewide office for five years, only 41 percent of voters are familiar enough with Atwater to have an opinion about him.

Although known as liberal-leaning, a study found Public Policy Polling to be he most accurate predictor of the 2012 presidential election.

PPP surveyed 923 registered Florida voters, including 425 Republican primary voters and 371 Democratic primary voters, from March 19th to 22nd. The margin of error for the overall survey is +/- 3.2 percent, it’s +/- 4.8 percent for the GOP sample, and it’s +/-5.1 percent for the Democratic sample.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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