From Chris Keating, Hartford Courant:
With nearly 30 percent of voters still undecided, Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy are locked in a statistical dead heat in the race for U.S. Senate, according to a new University of Connecticut-Hartford Courant poll.
The poll showed Murphy ahead, 37 percent to 33 percent, but with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, the race is basically a tie, poll Director Jennifer Dineen said.
The poll found that Democrats have more undecided voters than Republicans, that there are no significant gender gaps and that there are pronounced geographical pockets of support for each candidate:
— Still undecided are 17 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of unaffiliated voters. “Republicans, as a party, are more decisive than their Democratic counterparts” in the race, Dineen said. “Chris Murphy may be known in his congressional district, but he’s not necessarily well known around the state.”
— Although Democrats have tried to paint McMahon, the former CEO of WWE, as “anti-woman” for professional wrestling’s depiction of women in its earlier days, the poll did not show any significant gender gap. It showed Murphy with a 5-point lead among men and a 3-point lead among women.
— The candidates are running neck and neck in western Connecticut, where Republicans traditionally have their strongest base of support. Murphy, who has lived in Cheshire, Southington, and Wethersfield, leads by 8 percentage points on his home turf of Hartford County. McMahon leads by 8 points in eastern Connecticut.
The poll of likely voters was conducted from Sept. 11 through 16. At the time, many voters were still learning details about a 2003 lawsuit that Murphy’s landlord filed against him for failing to pay rent at his apartment in Southington when he was a state legislator, and about a 2007 foreclosure action against him when he missed mortgage payments on his home in Cheshire after he had won a seat in Congress.
McMahon has increased her advertising on those issues, while the state Democratic Party and Murphy have stepped up their criticism of McMahon for her tenure as CEO of the Stamford-based professional wrestling empire. A national Democratic group also started a $320,000 advertising campaign on behalf of Murphy during the polling week.
“There’s things happening daily,” Dineen said Tuesday. “The poll is showing what it’s looking like at this point in time, not next week. It takes time for people to process” various developments in the race.
The UConn poll is one of several following the hotly contested Senate race. A Quinnipiac University poll, released Aug. 28, showed McMahon ahead by 3 percentage points, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 points. A Rasmussen poll of likely voters in August showed McMahon ahead by 3 percentage points, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 points.
“It’s very fluid,” Dineen said. “There’s plenty of time, and this race can go in any direction.”
Nationally, some analysts view the race as a toss-up in a blue state where the voters have selected Democratic candidates in every presidential race since 1992. In the 2008 presidential race, Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain by more than 20 percentage points in Connecticut.
The Republicans have not taken a U.S. Senate race in Connecticut since 1982, when Republican Lowell P. Weicker won. Democrats Christopher J. Dodd and Joseph I. Lieberman dominated Connecticut’s two Senate seats for a political generation. Now an independent, Lieberman is retiring after 24 years in the Senate, setting up the open seat that McMahon and Murphy are seeking.
The new poll represents a joint effort by UConn and the state’s largest newspaper. The field work for the survey was performed in conjunction with the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Andrew E. Smith, director of that center, said that having nearly 30 percent undecided is not unusual at this stage of the race.
“The percentage of undecided is fairly realistic, given the presidential campaign overshadowing things,” Smith said Tuesday.
The 517 voters were selected randomly, covering those using either cellphones or land lines.
Two individuals interviewed after they were polled had sharply different views on the Senate race.
Roger L. Garbow, a Ridgefield Democrat, said he will definitely be voting for Murphy.
“I really dislike Linda McMahon, and it’s really interesting they are recasting her as this lovable grandmother next door,” said Garbow, 53. “But if you look at her record with WWE and WWF, they were not selling moral values to the kid next door. I like Chris Murphy. I like what he stands for. I believe he really cares about the people in Connecticut that he represents.”
But Timothy G. Singler, an unaffiliated voter from Southington, had the opposite view. He said that Murphy’s problems with paying his rent and mortgage “should immediately disqualify him” from the race.
“I have no hesitation to vote for Linda McMahon,” said Singler, 46. “Chris Murphy has done nothing, ever, that I’ve seen that’s impressed me. Not to say that Linda’s the best choice ever, but she is a better option. From the first time I heard [Murphy] speak, I did not like him.”