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Polls: GOP looks likely to keep Senate control

Democrats are leading in several races that could result in party pickups, but Republicans have narrowed the gap in other close races, according to Mason-Dixon polls in 11 states. By the NBC News Election Unit. [!]
/ Source: NBC News

Just days from the midterm elections, the final round of MSNBC/McClatchy polls shows a tightening race to the finish in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate. Democrats are leading in several races that could result in party pickups, but Republicans have narrowed the gap in other close races, according to Mason-Dixon polls in 12 states.

The numbers
Here are the state-by-state results for the latest MSNBC/McClatchy polls. Click the state name to read the poll data. And click the candidates' names for their profiles.

In , incumbent Republican Sen. Rick Santorum is still well behind his Democratic challenger Bob Casey, with Casey currently ahead by 13 percentage points, 52 percent to 39 percent, with 7 percent undecided.  In an MSNBC/McClatchy poll conducted two weeks ago, Casey was up by 12 percentage points.

In , incumbent Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee has closed the gap with Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.  Chafee is now supported by 46 percent of likely voters compared to Whitehouse’s 45 percent.  There are 9 percent undecided.  Two weeks ago, Whitehouse was leading by 5 percentage points.

In , Democrat Claire McCaskill and incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent remain virtually tied with McCaskill supported by 46 percent of likely voters and Talent supported by 45 percent with 7 percent undecided. Late last month, McCaskill had 46 percent to Talent’s 43 percent.

In , incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez has widened his advantage over Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr., holding 48 percent of likely voters compared with 41 percent supporting Kean. There are still 8 percent undecided.  In late October, the candidates were in a virtual tie (45 percent for Menendez to 42 percent for Kean).  In a race in which both candidates have been criticized for using negative attack ads, 54 percent of voters think both have attacked each other unfairly.

In , incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell has maintained her sizeable lead over Republican challenger Mike McGavick.  She now leads by 16 percentage points, 54 percent to 38 percent, with 7 percent undecided. Last month she led by 15 percentage points (52 percent to 37 percent).

In , Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow is comfortably ahead of her Republican opponent, Michael Bouchard (53 percent-37 percent). There are 7 percent undecided.

In , Republican incumbent Jon Kyl is ahead of his Democratic opponent Jim Pederson (49 percent-41 percent). There are 7 percent still undecided.

In , Democrat Ben Cardin and his Republican opponent, Michael Steele are virtually tied (47 percent-44 percent). There are 9 percent undecided.

In other Mason-Dixon polls:

In , a Cleveland Plain Dealer poll shows Democratic challenger Rep. Sherrod Brown still leading incumbent Republican Sen. Mike DeWine, 50 percent to 44 percent.  There are 5 percent undecided in this race.  Last month, Brown was up by 8 percentage points (48 percent-40 percent).

In , a Lee Newspapers poll shows incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns is tied with Democratic challenger Jon Tester, with each holding 47 percent. Five percent are undecided.  Last month, Tester had 46 percent and Burns 43 percent.

In , a Chattanooga Times Free Press & Memphis Commercial Appeal poll shows Republican Bob Corker holding a 12-percentage point lead over Democrat Rep. Harold Ford Jr., 50 percent-38 percent. Nine percent still undecided. In late October our poll showed Ford with 45 percent and Corker with 43 percent.

In , a Mason-Dixon Virginia Poll shows Democratic challenger Jim Webb has moved into a virtual tie (46 percent-45 percent) with Republican Sen. George Allen. Seven percent are undecided.  The previous poll showed Allen with 47 percent and Webb with 43 percent.

In all, these key Senate races show the following:

  • Two Republican incumbents in serious trouble: Santorum and DeWine.  Democrats could gain two seats.
  • Four Republican incumbents essentially tied with their challengers: Allen, Burns, Chafee and Talent. Four toss-ups that could turn into Democratic gains.
  • Three Democratic incumbents with leads: Cantwell, Menendez, and Stabenow.
  • One Republican incumbent ahead of his challenger: Kyl.
  • One Republican open seat with the Republican leading, Tennessee.
  • One open Democratic seat virtually tied: Maryland.

The results show that the Democrats have a good chance of gaining at least 2 seats in the Senate.  As of now, they must win 4 of the toss-up seats, while holding on to Maryland in order to gain control of the Senate.

Governor races
Three of these states also have a contest for governor:

In , Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell still has a large lead in a race against Republican Lynn Swann, 56 percent to 38 percent, with 6 percent undecided.  Last month, he led 56-35.

In , incumbent Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri still leads Democrat Charlie Fogarty 50 percent to 42 percent, with 8 percent undecided. A month ago, Carcieri led 49 percent to 39 percent.

In , Democrat Ted Strickland has a significant lead over Republican Ken Blackwell by a 56 percent to 37 percent margin with 6 percent undecided.  Last month Strickland led 54 percent-34 percent.

In , Democrat Gov. Janet Napolitano leads Republican challenger Len Munsil (61 percent-33 percent).

In , Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich is tied with his Democratic opponent, Martin O’Malley (45 percent-45 percent).  There are 9 percent still undecided.

In , Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen is well ahead of Republican challenger Jim Bryson (61 percent-26 percent).  There are 9 percent undecided.

In , Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm is ahead of Republican Dick DeVos by 14 percentage points (52 percent-38 percent).  There are 8 percent still undecided.

These polls were conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc.of Washington, D.C. from:

  • October 31st  through November 2nd in Arizona, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington.
  • November 1st through November 3rd in Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, and New Jersey.

A total of 625 likely voters in each state were interviewed by telephone.  Those interviewed were selected by the random variation of the last four digits of telephone numbers.

A cross-section of exchanges were utilized in order to ensure an accurate reflection of the state. Quotas were assigned to reflect voter turnout by county. The margin for error, according to standards customarily used by statisticians, is no more than plus or minus 4 percentage points in each poll. This means that there is a 95 percent probability that the "true" figure would fall within that range if the entire population were sampled. The margin for error is higher for any subgroup, such as a gender or regional grouping.