The congressional candidates in New York's 4th Congressional District are...

The congressional candidates in New York's 4th Congressional District are Democrat Kathleen Rice and Republican Bruce Blakeman. Credit: James Escher; Mike Stobe

With independent voters falling his way, Republican Bruce Blakeman has closed the gap on Democrat Kathleen Rice in their race for Nassau's open 4th Congressional District seat -- but still remains 10 points behind in a new Newsday/News 12/Siena College poll.

Rice, the Nassau district attorney, held a 52 percent to 42 percent advantage over Blakeman, a former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, among 628 likely voters, with 6 percent undecided or saying they had no opinion.

The poll was conducted Oct. 16-20, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

In a Siena poll about five weeks earlier, Rice enjoyed an 18-point lead over Blakeman, largely driven by her higher level of cross-party support.

But in the new poll, Rice's support among Republicans fell from 32 to 24 percent, and her 4-point lead among independent or minor party voters had turned into a 14-point deficit: 54 to 40 percent for Blakeman.

"If I were in her campaign, this would get my attention," said Donald P. Levy, director of the Siena Research Institute. "Eighteen points seems like it's all over. Ten points doesn't."

Still, Levy said, "I'd be hesitant to call this a momentum surge for Blakeman. Rather, I think it's an expected closing."

Blakeman campaign spokesman Matt Coleman disagreed.

"Bruce Blakeman has the momentum in this race as voters come to understand that a vote for Kathleen Rice is nothing more than a vote for a continuation of the failed leadership of [Democratic President] Barack Obama," Coleman said. "Voters are embracing Bruce Blakeman's campaign to change Washington rather than Kathleen Rice's lock-step support for maintaining the status quo."

Rice's campaign said it was "thrilled" with the poll results.

"If you told me when this race started that Kathleen would be up double digits two weeks from Election Day, I would've said you were crazy," said spokesman Eric Phillips. "Blakeman's running a dirty campaign focused on Kathleen, and Kathleen's running a positive campaign focused on her ideas for protecting seniors and the middle class. Voters will ultimately decide whose strategy was smarter."

Even with the poll numbers narrowing, Blakeman and Rice -- who are vying to succeed retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) -- have a wide gap between them in campaign cash and name recognition.

Rice had spent $1.9 million through the end of September to Blakeman's $856,747. Only 13 percent of poll respondents said they didn't know or had no opinion of Rice, who has been DA since 2006. Forty-seven percent said they didn't know or had no opinion of Blakeman, who last held office in 1999.

Since the first poll, Blakeman has released three television ads, with two attacking Rice. His favorable rating increased from 24 percent to 31 percent, while Rice's dropped from 59 percent to 52 percent.

All three of Rice's TV ads have focused on her, and 26 percent of poll respondents said Blakeman had waged a more negative campaign than Rice; 18 percent said the opposite.

"I would like to hear more about what both of them really intend to do and have them stop with the platitudes," said Mark Nuccio, a poll respondent who lives in Bellmore.

Nuccio, 68, who owns a Bethpage-based design firm, said he is a registered Democrat, but an independent voter, who has gone back-and-forth between supporting Rice and Blakeman.

Other poll respondents said they had made up their minds.

Mary Engargeau, 88, of Floral Park, a retired Nassau County Department of Social Services employee, said she's a Republican voting for Blakeman.

"People have to have money in their pockets," she said in noting she agreed with Blakeman's support of cutting federal taxes and regulations.

But Choon Lee, 69, of Hewlett, said he favors Rice and her support of increased affordable health care access. "I think she's strong on a lot of things," said Lee, a Democrat and retired real estate broker.

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