Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's lead over Rep. Robert Ehrlich in the race for governor has shrunk and they are now nearly even, according to a poll.

Townsend, a Democrat, leads Republican Ehrlich by 47 percent to 44 percent among likely voters, with 10 percent undecided, according to the poll conducted for The Baltimore Sun and The Gazette newspapers by Potomac Survey Research of Bethesda.

The telephone survey of 1,200 registered voters, conducted July 17-19, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

It is the second poll this month to show Townsend's lead slipping.

Poll results released July 10 by Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications Inc. of Annapolis found that 48 percent of registered voters polled said they would vote for Townsend while 41 percent favored Ehrlich.

A WJLA-Survey USA telephone poll released on July 2 found 53 percent supported Townsend and 42 percent supported Ehrlich.

In the most recent survey, Townsend lost the most support in Baltimore, where 58 percent of voters said they would vote for her compared with 72 percent in a January poll by the firm.

Statewide, her support among blacks has dropped 13 points in the past six months, from 90 percent to 77 percent. Ehrlich has chosen state GOP Chairman Michael S. Steele, who is black, as his running mate.

Blacks make up more than a quarter of the state's electorate.

Townsend spokesman Len Foxwell attacked Ehrlich's record.

"When it comes to inclusion, tolerance and civil rights, Bobby Ehrlich has failed," Foxwell said.

Ehrlich spokesman Paul E. Schurick said the campaign was braced for "an all-out, aggressive, negative campaign against Bob."

"That's all they've got left," he said. "What they've been trying to sell isn't working."