WASHINGTON — Republican candidates vying to win Democratic-held Senate seats have inched ahead in two once-deadlocked states and are in virtual ties in two others, four new McClatchy-Marist state polls found Friday.
The polls, taken Oct. 26-28, showed the Wisconsin and Pennsylvania Senate races leaning Republican, while Washington and Colorado remain tossups.
"These are states where Democrats are at best struggling for their political survival," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Republicans are mustering serious challenges in each state by riding the same voter trends: dissatisfaction with the economy and frustration with the Obama administration. Obama carried all four states by big margins in 2008.
The polls also showed that Republican gubernatorial candidates leading in Pennsylvania, where Tom Corbett is ahead, and Wisconsin, where Scott Walker is leading. In Colorado, Democrat John Hickenlooper leads Tom Tancredo, the American Constitution candidate, with Republican Dan Maes far behind.
The GOP needs a net gain of 10 seats Tuesday to take control of the Senate for the first time in four years. These four states are crucial to Republican hopes; a Democratic win in any one would put the chamber out of reach.
Miringoff saw one glimmer of hope for Democrats in Wisconsin, Washington and Colorado.
In recent weeks, "There's been a rallying effect in those three states. Democrats feel better about voting Democratic," he said. Still, that hasn't translated into momentum for their candidates.
On Election Day, the outcome is "all about mobilization," Miringoff said. "People have made up their minds. The question is whether they decide to vote."
In Wisconsin, Republican Ron Johnson leads three-term Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, 52 percent to 45 percent.
In Pennsylvania, former Rep. Pat Toomey, a Republican, is ahead of Rep. Joe Sestak by the same margin, 52 percent to 45 percent, to succeed Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., whom Sestak defeated in a primary.
In Washington, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, seeking a fourth term, has a 49 percent to 48 percent lead over Republican Dino Rossi.
In Colorado, Republican Ken Buck leads Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, 49 percent to 45 percent.
Among the findings:
- Pennsylvania: Sestak is ahead by a 9 to 1 margin in Philadelphia, which has about 13 percent of the vote, but is losing badly in the central and northern tier, which has 28 percent of voters. He's even with Republican Toomey in the Philadelphia suburbs, with 23 percent of voters.
Those who disapprove of Obama _about 52 percent — prefer Toomey 9 to 1. Those who think the worst economic news is yet to come — 47 percent of the electorate — back Toomey by 3 to 1.
Findings in the governor's race are similar, as Democrat Dan Onorato trails Corbett by 7 points. Among voters who think the worst is yet to come and don't like Obama, Corbett has strong support. 461 likely voters were surveyed. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
- Wisconsin: While Feingold has a 95 percent to 3 percent lead among liberals, who make up 19 percent of the voters, he falters badly with conservatives, who make up 45 percent of the electorate. They reject Feingold by 88 percent to 10 percent.
Johnson scores well with those who think the worst in the economy is yet to come, winning them by 75 percent to 21 percent. Among those who disapprove of Obama — half the voters — 91 percent prefer Johnson.
In the governor's race, Republican Walker leads Democrat Tom Barrett, 51 percent to 44 percent. Walker relies heavily on conservative support, as well as the backing of people who think the economy will get worse. 491 likely voters were surveyed. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points
- Washington: Among those who disapprove of Obama — 47 percent — Rossi has a 92 percent to 6 percent edge. Among those who approve of Obama, voters prefer Murray, 91 percent to 7 percent. Of those who are pessimistic about the economy, more than 3 out of 4 back Rossi.
Strong support in Seattle, Murray's hometown, which has nearly a third of the vote, helps her stay close. 638 likely voters were surveyed. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
- Colorado: Bennet is ahead by nearly 2 to 1 in Denver, but trails in the rest of the state.
Of those who think the worst economic news is yet to come, 69 percent back Buck. Of those who think the worst is behind them, 68 percent back Bennet.
Of the 40 percent who approve of Obama's performance, 95 percent back Bennet. Of the 55 percent who disapprove of Obama, 87 percent support Buck.
615 likely voters were surveyed. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
In the governor's race, Tancredo, a former Republican congressman and immigration hardliner, has strong GOP and independent support, and is attracting 77 percent of conservatives, who make up 42 percent of the electorate. Hickenlooper, the Denver mayor, however, is preferred by 90 percent of liberals and two-thirds of moderates.
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