Poll: Despite scandals, Grimm is increasing his lead over what’s-his-name

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Freshman Republican Michael Grimm, who has faced a series of alleged scandals connected to his fund-raising, his work as an F.B.I. agent, and his private sector connections, has widened his lead over his little-known Democratic challenger, Mark Murphy, according to a new Siena poll.

Grimm now leads Murphy by 18 points, 52-34, with 14 percent undecided, among likely voters in the 11th district that includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn.

Siena contacted voters between October 27th and 28th, the Saturday and Sunday right before Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast. (Pollster Steven Greenberg told me the poll "was finished before storm" and that "we held for a few days for obvious reasons.")

Today's numbers are an improvement for Grimm, who led Murphy in a September Siena poll, 50-33, with 17 percent undecided.

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In theory, Grimm's troubles meant that Democrats were in a good position to make the 11th a competitive race, but they failed to field a compelling candidate who could draw much money or attention and the reflects Murphy's struggle to raise his profile, or even present a reason for ousting the media-friendly Grimm.

"Murphy is only viewed favorably by 62 percent of his supporters, with more than one-quarter of voters who say they are voting for Murphy not knowing enough about him to have an opinion," Greenberg said in a statement accompanying the poll.

Grimm's biggest gain has been among independent voters. Last month, he led Murphy among that group by 9 points; today, he leads by 30.

His surge comes as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, for whom Grimm has occasionally served as an unofficial surrogate, overtook President Barack Obama among likely voters in the 11th district. Obama led Romney 49-45 percent last month, but trails 49-46 percent there today.