Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley has lost half her lead over Democratic rival Vincent Sheheen in the past month, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Thursday.
Support for Haley is below 50 percent for the first time since a July 29th Rasmussen survey.
But the poll shows Haley still leads Sheheen by 9 percentage points, mirroring a Winthrop University poll released last week. Undecided voters comprised 11 percent of those polled.
The telephone survey of 500 likely voters by Republican-leaning Rasmussen was conducted Oct. 19, the same night as the candidates' first gubernatorial debate in Spartanburg. Haley registered 47 percent support among those polled, while Sheheen had 38 percent support. A Rasmussen poll a month ago said Haley had a 17 percentage point lead, 50-33. The July 29th poll showed Haley with a 49-35 advantage over Sheheen.
Greenville-based communications consultant Chip Felkel said the poll shows two factors at work: The race tightening to a typical spread for S.C. statewide contests as Election Day nears; and Sheheen's advertising critical of Haley has had an impact.
"Traditionally you see a wide margin after the primary," Felkel said, a trend exaggerated by Haley's national media coverage following her June upset victory. "There was a lot of hyperbole we saw, so it's kind of come back to reality."
Felkel thinks Sheheen's ads — which question accountant Haley's late tax payments, consulting work for an engineering firm with state contracts and employment with Lexington Medical Center — were also benefiting his campaign.
But Felkel said Haley still holds a significant lead with less than two weeks left, and her campaign has successfully used national issues — such as the recently enacted health care law — against the Camden attorney.
Both campaigns say the race is tightening.
Read more of this story at TheState.com