Democrat pulls ahead in close U.S. Senate race in Connecticut

Wed Oct 24, 2012 6:07am EDT

U.S. Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon (R) of Connecticut greets supporters with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a campaign rally in Stamford, Connecticut, October 22, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar

U.S. Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon (R) of Connecticut greets supporters with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a campaign rally in Stamford, Connecticut, October 22, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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(Reuters) - Connecticut Democratic U.S. Congressman Chris Murphy has pulled ahead of Republican businesswoman Linda McMahon in their U.S. Senate race, taking a 49 percent to 43 percent lead in a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday.

Murphy is now leading among women and older voters, but the closely watched race remains fluid less than two weeks before Election Day, the university said. The poll found 11 percent of Murphy supporters and 14 percent of McMahon supporters saying they might change their mind.

An October 4 Quinnipiac poll had the two candidates neck and neck in the race to replace Senator Joseph Lieberman, with McMahon leading Murphy by a single percentage point.

One hurdle for McMahon, a former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment who has poured millions of dollars of her own money into the campaign, is that a majority of voters say she would favor the wealthy if elected, the poll found.

"Murphy has taken the lead in the Senate race in part because more voters now believe he understands their economic problems better than McMahon," Douglas Schwartz, director of the poll, said in a statement.

Democrats, who hope to hold onto their 51-47 advantage in the 100-seat Senate, are pouring money into heavily Democratic Connecticut to solidify support for Murphy. Last month, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee began running ads for him.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, won the state by 23 percentage points in 2008.

McMahon ran for the U.S. Senate two years ago but she took just 43 percent of the vote and was defeated by Democrat Richard Blumenthal by 12 points.

"Has she hit her ceiling?" said Schwartz. "She took 43 percent of the vote in 2010 ... Two weeks before the election, she is back at 43 percent."

The poll showed Murphy leading among women likely to vote by 52 percent to 38 percent, and among voters who are 55 years old and older by 51 percent to 42 percent.

In the presidential race, Obama has taken a 55 percent to 41 percent lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, up two percentage points from October 4.

The telephone survey of 1,412 likely voters was conducted from October 19 to October 22 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

(Reporting By Edith Honan; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Philip Barbara)

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