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McMahon Has Lead in Close Connecticut Senate Race, Poll Shows

Republican Linda McMahon leads in Connecticut’s U.S. Senate race, with the former professional wrestling executive benefiting from a narrower margin of support for President Barack Obama in the state compared with four years ago, according to a poll of likely voters.

McMahon, who lost a Senate bid two years ago, is ahead of Democrat Chris Murphy, 49 percent to 46 percent, in the survey released today by Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University.

Poll Director Doug Schwartz, while terming the race “too close to call,” said the poll results are “good news” for McMahon in her bid to win the seat now held by Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent.

Lieberman, who decided against seeking re-election, caucuses with Democrats in the Senate and a McMahon win would help Republicans in their bid to take control of the chamber.

Obama leads presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the fight for Connecticut’s seven electoral votes, 52 percent to 45 percent.

Though Schwartz said the Republican national ticket probably will come up short in Connecticut, which hasn’t voted for the party’s presidential candidate since 1988, he said Obama’s lead in the poll is “a far cry from his 23-point victory” over John McCain in 2008.

Short Coattails

“This smaller than expected margin for Obama could affect the Senate race,” Schwartz said. The Murphy campaign is hoping to benefit from Obama’s coattails, but right now they are not very long.”

McMahon, 63, who lost Connecticut’s 2010 Senate race to Democrat Richard Blumenthal by 12 percentage points, “has worked on her image in the last two years, and it shows,” Schwartz said.

Her edge in the Quinnipiac poll “is due to her double-digit lead among independent voters and being close among women, a group she struggled with in her 2010 run,” he said.

The survey, conducted Aug. 22-26, shows 47 percent of likely voters view McMahon favorably, while 35 percent have an unfavorable opinion of the former World Wrestling Federation chief executive.

Statewide Visibility

Murphy, 39, a U.S. House member serving his third term, may be hindered by a lack of statewide visibility. He was rated favorably by 38 percent in the poll and unfavorably by 30 percent, with 32 percent saying they hadn’t heard enough about him to have an opinion. Only 18 percent said they lacked enough information about McMahon to form an opinion.

With Democrats controlling the Senate 53-47, Republicans need a net gain of at least three seats in November’s election for a majority. They will need a four-seat pickup if Obama wins re-election, because the vice president casts the tie-breaking vote in the chamber.

In the presidential race in Connecticut, Obama benefits from a gender gap. He leads among women, 59 percent to 38 percent, while Romney has the advantage among men, 53 percent to 45 percent.

The poll shows 58 percent say the economy will be “extremely important” to their vote in the presidential race, and Romney is judged better able to do a good job on this issue than Obama, 49 percent to 44 percent.

Medicare is viewed as “extremely important” in the contest by 41 percent, and Obama has the advantage on this issue: 51 percent say he would do a better job dealing with the program compared with 41 percent for Romney.

The poll of 1,472 likely voters has an error margin for its entire sample of plus-or-minus 2.6 percentage points.

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