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Fox News Polls Track Close Races in Key States

With just two weeks to go, Democratic efforts to shrink the Senate playing field by using resources to shore up deep blue states like California seem to be working. But at the same time, Republicans continue to bedevil party favorites elsewhere.

Even as Sen. Barbara Boxer and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown look to lock up their leads in California, Sen. Michael Bennet is still trailing in Colorado and party-picked Senate candidate Gov. Joe Manchin remains behind Republican John Raese in West Virginia.

Republicans, meanwhile, look increasingly unlikely to surrender any of the five Senate seats left open by retirements this year.

The latest surveys were conducted on Oct. 16 by Pulse Opinion Research for Fox News. Each survey included 1,000 likely voters and has a margin of error of 3 points. The surveys will be conducted weekly until the election.

GOP Still Standing in West Virginia

Republican John Raese still leads Democrat Joe Manchin in West Virginia’s rough and rowdy Senate race despite a pair of controversial television ads, according to the latest Fox News state poll.

Raese’s lead over Manchin shrank two points from Oct. 2, but his 48 percent to 45 percent lead over the popular second-term governor is still cause for concern among Democrats.

Raese’s lead comes after a bruising two weeks in which an ad agency hired by the National Republican Senatorial Committee got busted looking for “hicky” actors to play parts in an anti-Manchin ad and Manchin produced an ad in which he shot a hole through a copy of President Obama’s global warming legislation with a deer rifle.

The poll of likely voters shows why Manchin might be moved to take more shots at the Obama agenda. Obama’s job approval in the state dropped two points to 27 percent. Sixty two percent of voters said that Obama’s polices had hurt the state’s economy – up two points from Oct. 2 -- and 51 percent thought the president’s agenda had hurt their personal finances.

Manchin’s latest campaign gambit, laid out in ads and a Monday debate with Raese, is to argue that he would work as a Senator to repeal only parts of the president’s national health-care law. Manchin is defending other parts of the plan and suggesting Raese is siding with insurance companies.

Manchin’s message may be getting through as 29 percent of voters said they favor only a partial repeal of the law. But 49 percent said they prefer to have the whole law repealed. Only 21 percent favored maintaining or expanding the plan.

Manchin’s two-point gain may derive from his personal appeal. The governor gained three points on his job approval rating to reach a new high of 69 percent, the same percent who hold a favorable view of the pro-life Democrat.

Businessman Raese’s 29-point deficit to Manchin on personal favorability in voter’s eyes, though, hardly seems disqualifying. With undecided voters down to 4 percent and those remaining undecided voters overwhelmingly said they were interested in sending a message of dissatisfaction with the Obama agenda.

The winner of the contest will serve out the remaining two years of the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd’s term.

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Tancredo Roils Colo. Gov. Race; Senate Contest Looks Like a Squeaker

Third-party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo has drawn within 5 points of Democrat John Hickenlooper in the topsy-turvy race for Colorado governor according to a new Fox News state poll.

Tancredo, a former five-term Republican congressman who jumped to the American Constitution Party, drew 40 percent of the vote compared Hickenlooper’s 45 percent in a survey of likely voters.

In the last Fox News state poll of Colorado, taken Sept. 25, Denver Mayor Hickenlooper led Tancredo by 10 points.

Tancredo's new support has come from the crumbling candidacy of Republican Dan Maes, a little-known Tea Party enthusiast who won his party’s nomination in an upset after former Rep. Scott McInnis was hobbled by a plagiarism scandal.

Maes drew just 10 percent support in the latest survey. Tancredo, a 2008 GOP presidential candidate who still considers himself a Republican, has called on Maes to drop out of the race.

Tancredo took 69 percent of Republican support in the poll.

The major concern for Democrats, though, is the neck-and-neck race between Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican challenger Ken Buck.

Buck leads Bennet in the new poll by a scant 1 percent, an improvement for Bennet who trailed in the Sept. 25 survey by 4 points.

Democrats are making an all-out surge to save Bennet, who was appointed to the Senate after President Obama tapped then-Sen. Ken Salazar to lead the Department of the Interior. The contest has been judged the most expensive Senate race in the nation.

Former President Bill Clinton, who endorsed Bennet’s primary challenger Andrew Romanoff, showed up Monday for a Denver rally with the incumbent on the day that early voting began. First lady Michelle Obama appeared at a fundraiser for Bennet last Thursday.

Bennet and Buck both boast high degrees of commitment from their voters – only 5 percent of all those who expressed a preference said they were even open to considering another choice. With such firm support, the battle will be over the 4 percent who remain undecided.

In what could be an indication of trouble for Bennet, none of the undecided voters thought President Obama’s policies had helped the state’s economy. The pool of undecided voters also includes 10 percent of those who were dissatisfied or angry about the way Washington is working and only 1 percent of those who gave the federal government good marks.

The good news for Bennet is that his party’s liberal base seems to be rallying to his cause, or at least President Obama. Last month 21 percent of voters said they wanted their vote to show support for Obama. This month that number is up to 33 percent.

Obama’s overall approval rating in the state, though, remains at a sickly 40 percent.

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Dems Show Strength in California

Democrats are solidifying their leads in California’s costly, contentious battles for Senate and governor, according to a new Fox News state poll.

Sen. Barbara Boxer moved from a mid-September lead of 1 point to a 4-point advantage over Republican challenger Carly Fiorina in the latest poll of likely voters. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, meanwhile, went from an absolute tie with Republican Meg Whitman to a 5-point advantage.

The closest contest in the poll was on the Election Day referendum on whether to legalize pot in the state. Likely voters were split: 47 percent were opposed and 46 percent were in favor with 7 percent undecided.

California voters don’t seem too happy with any of their candidate choices this year. Boxer, Fiorina, Brown and Whitman all scored above 50 percent on being viewed unfavorably by voters.

After months of blistering negative ads, record campaign spending by wealthy candidates and outside groups and a pair of dueling scandals for Whitman and Brown, one can see why. Whitman’s former housekeeper claims the candidate knew she was in the country illegally and Brown was unwittingly recorded at a campaign meeting in which Whitman was twice called a “whore.”

President Obama's job approval in the state held steady at 46 percent, but there are signs that the Democratic pleas to base voters may be having some effect.

While 57 percent of respondents said that Obama’s policies have either hurt the state’s economy or done nothing to help it, 30 percent now say the Obama plan has helped, up 5 points from last month.

Half of all voters, though, say they plan to vote for the Republican nominee in 2012 rather than Obama, who got the certain support of 39 percent.

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Mo. Senate Seat May Be Slipping Out of Dems' Reach

Missouri Republican Roy Blunt’s 6-point Senate lead looks like it will be enough to carry him to a Senate victory over Democrat Robin Carnahan, according to a new Fox News state poll.

With high degrees of voter certainty for Blunt supporters (91 percent) and Carnahan backers (92 percent), it seems unlikely that, barring a major October surprise, that the Democratic secretary of state can mount a late comeback in the race.

National Democrats have begun shifting resources out of the Missouri race to focus on defending vulnerable Democrats elsewhere. The seat is currently held by retiring Republican Sen. Kit Bond.

In the Fox poll taken two weeks ago, Carnahan trailed by eight points, and her uptick may be owed to a slight softening of anti-Obama sentiment in the state.

The president’s job approval in the state floated up two points to 41 percent and the percent of those who though Obama’s policies had helped the Show Me State rose to 25 percent from 22 percent.

But the Democratic brand is still in big trouble in Missouri.

With 49 percent saying that the Obama agenda had hurt the state’s economy and 43 percent saying the president’s policy had hurt their personal finances, the final two weeks of the campaign look like a tough haul for Carnahan.

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Strickland Stuck Behind Kasich

Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) has been unable to close the gap with Republican challenger John Kasich, according to a new Fox News state poll.

Kasich leads for a sixth straight week, this time with a 6-point advantage over Strickland in the survey of likely voters. Kasich’s lead has been either 5 points or 6 points for five of six weeks. Four weeks ago, the margin was only two points.

While President Obama rebounded from his all-time low 33 percent job approval in last week’s Buckeye State poll, the 37 percent who do think Obama is performing well are not enough to help Strickland.

Seventy-two percent of voters said Obama’s policies had either hurt the state’s economy or made no difference.

Owing to the large, consistent lead by Republican Rob Portman in the race to replace retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich, Fox did not survey the Senate contest this week.

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