We have seen some hopeful polls for Democrats in recent days, but the last 24 hours brings results that will cheer Republicans and restore Democratic heartburn, especially in Connecticut where a new Quinnipiac University poll out this morning shows a "very close" race between Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republican Linda McMahon.
The Quinnipiac poll shows Blumenthal's margin over McMahon narrowing to just three points (49% to 46%), a slightly closer margin than on their previous poll earlier in the month (51% to 45%). Rasmussen Reports also released a new Connecticut poll yesterday that showing Blumenthal ahead by just five points (50% to 45%), a slightly closer than the 9-point margin they found earlier in September (53% to 44%). The new surveys narrow Blumenthal's lead on our trend estimate to just four percentage points (49.8% to 45.3%), shifting the race to "lean Democrat" status.
The Blumenthal campaign will likely quarrel with these numbers, as they preemptively shared results of an internal poll yesterday with other media outlets, purportedly showing their candidate with a double-digit lead. But while the levels of support measured by the Quinnipiac and Rasmussen surveys may or may not be right, the trend evident in their results is unmistakable: McMahon has narrowed the gap significantly since winning the Republican primary in August.
Elsewhere, two new polls in Pennsylvania produced results consistent with previous data. In the Senate race, a new Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll shows Republican Pat Toomey leading Democrat Joe Sestak by 7 points (46% to 39%), while a new automated survey by the Republican firm Magellan Data and Mapping puts Toomey ahead by 8 (49% to 41%). That makes 18 public polls in a row since July showing Toomey with a nominal lead. Our more sensitive trend line shows that while voters have been growing increasingly decided, the roughly 7-8 point margin between Toomey and Sestak has not changed since August.
In the Pennsylvania governor's race, the Muhlenberg College poll shows Republican Tom Corbett leading Democrat Dan Onorato by 9 points (48% to 37%), while the Magellan poll has Corbett up by 12 (50% to 38%). Corbett's margin on the Muhlenberg result is one of the narrower reported in recent weeks. Our trend estimate gives Corbett a roughly 12-point advantage (50.3% to 38.7%).
In Delaware, Rasmussen Reports' latest poll shows Democrat Chris Coons leading Republican Christine O'Donnell by 9 points (49% to 40%), a slightly narrower margin than the CNN/Time poll found a week ago (55% to 39%).
The Rasmussen poll also found 5% support for Mike Castle, the incumbent Senator who lost the Republican primary to O'Donnell earlier this month. Castle is said to be considering a write-in candidacy. Rasmussen's approach was to omit reference to Castle in the first part of the question, but offer him as a option in the second. If the answer categories followed Rasmussen's typical format, their respondents would have heard something like this:
If the 2010 Election for United States senate, were held today would you vote for Republican Christine O'Donnell or Democrat Chris Coons?
If you are for O'Donnell, press 1
If you are for Coons, press 2
If you are for Mike Castle, press 3
If you are for someone else, press 4
If you are not sure, press 5
In this case, if the Rasmussen system allows respondents to answer immediately (without waiting to hear all the choices), many would have chosen O'Donnell or Coons before hearing that Castle was an option. Measuring support for a write-in candidacy is difficult, especially when it is still hypothetical. This sort of question will tend to measure the floor of a write-in candidate's support. So don't be surprised if other Delaware polls in the near future offer Castle as a more explicit option and show more potential support.