Poll: To Know Allen West Is to Love Him (But Most Don't Know Him)

Today the Allen West campaign is heralding a new internal poll that shows he's two points ahead (44-42) of Congressman Ron Klein in the race for the 22nd Congressional District seat.

The news release highlights a poll finding that of those who claim to know who West is, 23 percent hold a high opinion of him, while 8 percent have an unfavorable opinion. But it also concedes that less than half the likely voters surveyed know who West is, compared to the more than 90 percent who know of Klein.

West's enthusiasm for the poll seems based on what may be a shaky premise: the idea that the more voters learn about him, the better his chances get.

For instance, will a majority of coastal Broward and Palm Beach voters agree with West that Muslim people aren't entitled to the same constitutional protections as people of other religions?

Will they agree with the tea party that West is a "patriot" even after learning that he was chased from the U.S. Army after admitting to abusing an Iraqi prisoner?

There's no doubt that West is revered by the tea party, thanks is large part to his ideological purity. But that same purity will make it very hard for him to appeal to the moderates -- voters who may be scared off West's extreme views.

Typically, a challenger's task is to gain exposure and to help voters learn about his campaign; in this case, West's best move might be to stay out of the news cycle and cruise to victory on the strength of votes from people picking anybody-but-Klein.

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