Fox News Polls: GOP Sees Senate Chances Improve

The race for the Senate continues to heat up as Republicans lead for two seats currently held by Democrats -- Nevada and Washington -- while another Republican has closed into striking distance for an open seat in Connecticut.

Republican Linda McMahon has taken a bite out of Democrat Richard Blumenthal's lead in Connecticut while her fellow GOPers Dino Rossi and Sharron Angle cling to slim leads over entrenched Democrats in Washington state and Nevada.

With just three weeks to go, control of the U.S. Senate may hang on a handful of ballots in these key states.

The latest surveys were conducted on Oct. 9 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.

McMahon Cuts Blumenthal’s Edge in Connecticut

Republican Linda McMahon cut her opponent’s advantage in Connecticut’s Senate race from 10 percentage points to 6 points in a week, according to a new Fox News battleground state poll.

Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the state’s attorney general, looked in last week’s poll like he was headed for smooth sailing in the race to replace retiring Sen. Chris Dodd.

But after a debate that featured Blumenthal freezing up when asked about job creation, McMahon seems to be in contention. She now trails in the survey of likely voters 43 percent to 49 percent.

The debate, hosted last week by local Fox affiliate Fox CT and moderated by Fox News' Bret Baier, featured a minutes-long, rambling answer from Blumenthal about how jobs are created.

McMahon pounced, and not just in the debate. Her campaign, funded with the fortune she made with her husband in the professional wrestling business, has been showing Blumenthal’s answer in a torrent of TV advertising.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, an industrialist who served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland, saw his situation improve as well. Democrat Dan Molloy, the former longtime mayor of Stamford, led by 6 points last week. His advantage is down to 4 points now. The two also debated last week.

The poll, though, suggests that there is more at play in the Nutmeg State than just debate performance as President Obama’s job approval rating in the state dropped from 48 percent to 42 percent.

But character may be king in the McMahon-Blumenthal matchup.

McMahon’s favorability rating with state voters rose from 40 percent to 44 percent. Blumenthal’s favorability rating, meanwhile, dropped from 55 percent to 53 percent.

Blumenthal, who has been dogged by his multiple exaggerations of his military service, lost ground on trustworthiness too, dropping from 48 percent to 42 percent. McMahon gained 2 points to reach 38 percent.

While 52 percent of respondents were concerned about Blumenthal’s military misadventures, 49 percent were concerned about the work McMahon did at the violent -- often risqué -- World Wrestling Entertainment.

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Angle Holds on to Slim Lead in Nevada

A scant two points is all that separates Republican Sharron Angle and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in their bitter Nevada contest, according to the latest Fox News battleground state poll.

Angle has led in each of the four weeks that Fox News has polled the Silver State, but never by more than three points. In the survey of likely voters, Angle led with 49 percent to Reid’s 47 percent.

The final three weeks of the campaign promise to be some of the most grueling in the nation, starting with the primetime debate between the candidates on Thursday night.

Only 6 percent of respondents said they were still open to changing their minds, while the rest were firmly behind their candidate despite weeks of almost entirely negative campaigning. It makes sense that both candidates scored with negative ratings of nearly 60 percent.

Thirty five percent of all those surveyed said they decided their vote based on disliking the other candidate more than their own.

Nevadans continue to give bad marks to President Obama with only 40 percent approving of his performance. And 49 percent – the same number that picked Angle – said their vote was intended to express opposition to Obama’s policies.

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Rossi Nips Murray in Washington Senate Race

A new Fox News poll shows Republican Dino Rossi with a 1-point lead over incumbent Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) in what promises to be one of the hottest contests of the fall.

Though Rossi’s lead is well within the poll’s margin of error, it’s further proof that the race is heading down to the wire. Rossi’s 47 percent to 46 percent advantage among likely voters is a 3-point swing from the first Fox News poll, conducted Sept. 25, when Murray led by 1 point.

Neither Rossi, a former state legislator who lost a 2004 bid for governor by a handful of votes, nor Murray, now in her 18th year in the Senate, is well-liked. Rossi was viewed unfavorably by 49 percent of voters and Murray was viewed unfavorably by 48 percent – outstripping positive views for both politicians by small margins.

The negative tone of the campaign has no doubt added to the sour views of voters about the candidates. Just today, Murray is launching a rough new commercial that hammers Rossi, a Roman Catholic, for supporting restrictions on abortion and opposing government subsidies for contraceptives. Rossi has flayed Murray relentlessly for her votes on key Obama initiatives, like stimulus spending.

But even less popular in the state than either of the candidates are the policies of Obama. Forty-five percent of voters want to express opposition to Obama with their ballots while only 32 percent want to give Obama a boost.

Forty-two percent said that Obama’s polices have hurt the state’s economy compared to 23 percent who say they’ve helped. That 19-point disparity is up from 9 points in the first Fox battleground state survey last month.

Obama’s overall job approval in the state hovers at 44 percent, a far cry from the 57 percent Obama took in the state in the 2008 election.

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GOP Dominates in Ohio as Obama Falls to New Low

Ohio Republicans continue to dominate Buckeye State politics this year amid widespread dissatisfaction with Obama.

GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush, maintained a 17-point lead for a second week over Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters.

Portman has led for five straight weeks, starting with a 7-point edge in mid-September. Portman holds a huge fundraising advantage and has been endorsed by newspapers across the state. Portman now takes 52 percent of the vote compared to 35 percent for Fisher.

The more contentious contest is for governor, in which Republican challenger John Kasich, a former congressman from the Columbus area, holds a 5-point lead over incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland, 47 percent to 42 percent.

Kasich’s advantage in five weeks of Fox polling has been either 5 or 6 points, while the last week in September saw Strickland pull within 2 points.

But worrisome for Strickland should be the nine percent who remain undecided in the race. History shows that undecided voters late in an election cycle usually prefer challengers to well-known incumbents.

When asked their views on the candidates personally, 48 percent of voters had an unfavorable view of Strickland compared to 42 percent who held a favorable view. Kasich was given a positive rating by 40 percent and negative rating by 36 percent.

But the killer for Democratic aspirations in Ohio this year is likely President Obama’s dreadful ratings in the state. This week’s poll saw Obama’s approval in the state fall to a new low in Ohio of 33 percent, down 5 points from last week.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they felt either angry (38 percent) or dissatisfied (31 percent) about the way the federal government works.

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O’Donnell Not Catching Up in Delaware

Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell has not made up any of the ground between her and Democrat Chris Coons, according to a new Fox News poll.

O’Donnell, vaulted into an upset primary win over Rep. Mike Castle last month, trails Coons by 16 points in a survey of likely voters, 54 percent to 38 percent. The numbers are essentially unchanged from a Fox News survey taken the week after her primary victory.

O’Donnell, who used her first television ad to try to dispel the idea that she was a witch because of remarks she made as a television panelist years ago, was viewed unfavorably by 58 percent of voters. Coons was viewed favorably by half of voters.

It is a race that will likely continue to frustrate Republicans who were counting on Castle, a popular seven-term congressman and former governor, to pick up the Senate seat formerly held by Vice President Joe Biden.

The poll shows that Castle would have defeated Coons by a 17-point landslide and that more voters (41 percent) would rather express opposition to the Obama administration with their Senate vote than would like to show support (36 percent).

While opposition to the small government Tea Party movement that backs O’Donnell ran to 49 percent compared to 37 percent in support, 59 percent of respondents were either dissatisfied (30 percent) or angry (29 percent) about the way the federal government operates.

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