Labour's Te Tai Tokerau candidate, Kelvin Davis, says the rising popularity of the new Maori Party candidate, actor Waihoroi Shortland, could be hobbling his own chances of taking the seat off MP Hone Harawira.
A Te Karere-DigiPoll survey out yesterday showed Mr Harawira, the Mana Party leader, ahead of Mr Davis, a list MP, by 42 per cent to 35.
Although Mr Shortland was on 20 per cent, that was a marked increase on the 9 per cent support the Maori Party's previous candidate, Solomon Tipene, got in the June byelection.
Eight per cent of the 400 respondents were undecided.
The poll also showed that Labour, the Maori Party and Mana were almost level in the party vote. Labour and the Maori Party were both on 27 per cent and Mana was on 25.
The results show the extent to which the new Mana Party has split the vote on Mr Harawira's home turf - in the 2008 election Labour won 45 per cent of the party vote and the Maori Party got 30 per cent.
Mr Davis said he was pleased he was within reach of Mr Harawira, "although obviously I would rather be ahead. I think Wassie [Shortland] is taking some of the support I took from Solomon during the byelection."
Mr Shortland said he believed his increased support had come at the cost of both Mr Harawira and Mr Davis.
"I've stolen from both of them, and I make no apologies for being a thief. You couldn't see us for dust in the byelection. Well, now I can distinctly see the shapes of the heels.
"I'm within fingertip reach and if I can just give them a Piri Weepu fingertip flick round the heels, I'll get over."
Mr Shortland said he was focusing on undecided voters and the 5500 people who had not voted in the byelection. He said the close split in the party vote showed Maori voters were no longer as loyal to the Labour Party as in the past.
There is also significant personal support for Mr Harawira in the electorate - 30 per cent chose him as their favourite Maori MP - ahead of Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples on 22. Mr Davis got 11 per cent.
And although John Key was ahead as preferred Prime Minister, on 26 per cent, there was a thumbs-down for his Government's performance. Half of the respondents said their whanau was worse off under the Government.
Only 29 per cent said they believed the Government was heading in the right direction; 58 per cent said it was going in the wrong direction.
In the June byelection, Mr Harawira received about 49 per cent of the votes and held on to the seat with a majority of 1117. Mr Davis secured about 40 per cent.
The Te Karere poll will bring some relief to Mr Harawira after an earlier, much smaller Marae-DigiPoll survey indicated the seat was close and gave Mr Davis the edge. Mr Harawira said at that point that he would concentrate on retaining his seat in this election, restricting his ability to campaign nationwide for the party vote.
The Te Karere-DigiPoll survey of 400 voters has a margin of error of 4.9 per cent and was taken between October 1 and 25.