- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A new poll finds the Republican candidate leading in New Jersey’s 3rd District congressional race that Democrats have seen as one of their best chances to pick up a House seat.

The Monmouth Poll released Tuesday has Tom MacArthur with 51 percent support to Democrat Aimee Belgard’s 41 percent. Considering its margin of error of 4.9 percentage points, the poll shows MacArthur with a lead, an improvement for him from a poll last month that showed the two candidates tied.

TV commercials, many run by a national Democratic group, have been a constant in the race, focusing largely on attacking the other side.

“While both sides have taken shots at each other, national Democrats have weighed in with some controversial attacks against MacArthur. It doesn’t look like they worked,” Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray said in a statement. “This is not turning out to be the horse race that Democrats had hoped.”

Two national Democratic groups have cut back on television ads they were planning to run in the Philadelphia market, which reaches parts of southwest New Jersey. Republicans are seizing on that as a lack of confidence in Belgard, something Democrats deny.

“It wouldn’t be a surprise to see national Democrats cut and run after making a thorough mess of things,” said Ian Prior, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Marc Brumer, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the organization, which has run a constant stream of anti-MacArthur cable TV ads for two months, said the organization is still backing Belgard.

Earlier this year, the organization reserved $1.3 million worth of commercial time on cable TV for her campaign. The group also reserved $1.9 million in Philadelphia, saying months ago that it was for two Pennsylvania races. It’s that reservation that has been canceled.

Matt Thornton, a spokesman for the House Majority Political Action Committee, a Democratic group, said his organization has canceled some television ads in Philadelphia and delayed others. He said the group is still considering using remaining airtime to support Belgard.

The seat is open with current Rep. Jon Runyan, a Republican, not seeking re-election.

The Monmouth Poll found more voters had a favorable impression of MacArthur than Belgard.

And in a district split between Burlington and Ocean Counties, it found a tie in Burlington and MacArthur with a 15-point lead in Ocean. Belgard lives in Burlington, and MacArthur in Ocean.

The poll of 423 randomly selected likely voters in the district was conducted by telephone.

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