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Democrats gaining a foothold on well-heeled Republicans, polls show

Democrats in Connecticut and New York are reasserting their traditional edge over GOP candidates who just weeks ago were making it a tight race. There's more: Democrats have made gains in Washington, Delaware and California, and could retain their seats in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Nevada.

October 14, 2010|By Michael Muskal

Los Angeles Times — That big whoosh is the huge sigh of relief coming out of the Northeast as the latest polls show Democratic candidates in Connecticut and New York reasserting their traditional edge over conservative Republicans who just weeks ago were making it a tight race in normally blue states.

In Connecticut, Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat, has a 54% to 43% lead over former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, the Republican, in the race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Christopher J. Dodd, according a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

"After Linda McMahon had climbed to within 3 points of Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal, he has stopped her momentum and increased his lead by 8 points in two weeks. While September wasn't very good for Blumenthal, perhaps like Reggie Jackson, he could be called 'Mr. October,'" said poll director Douglas Schwartz.

Significantly, Blumenthal's lead was built by a shift among independents who now support the Democrat 49% to 44%, compared with a similar poll in September when McMahon garnered 49% of the independents.

The changes in Connecticut follow the same pattern as in adjacent New York, where Republican Carl Paladino was running close to Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general, only to lose standing as the independents moved. Cuomo has a comfortable double-digit lead in the battle to become governor of New York.

In both cases, the moves came as voters get a better look at the candidates through debates and amid the gaffes of the run to the political races. McMahon has seemingly suffered by her debate performance while Paladino has become ensnared in a series of miscues including having to defend himself from charges of being homophobic.

The situation in the Northeast is a return for Democrats to the status quo ante before the "tea party" movement energized the GOP, building a well of enthusiasm that all Republican candidates have tapped ahead of the Nov. 2 midterm elections. President Obama and others have been and will continue to campaign to eliminate the enthusiasm gap that has given Republicans candidates an edge, according to most polls that are predicting gains in both houses of Congress.

Democrats are hoping that what really is going on is that independent voters are finally listening as Election Day approaches and that they have begun to reassert themselves, at least in the battle to control the Senate. Republicans have 41 seats and would need a net gain of 10 to take control of the chamber.

Recent polls show Democrat gains in Washington, Delaware and California, states where Democrats hold the current seats. Even though their candidates are trailing or within the margin of error, polls show Democrats have a shot in holding their seats in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Nevada, defeating well-financed, enthusiastic Republicans who are running against President Obama.

Running against -- or at least to the side of -- President Obama has been helping some Democrats, especially the popular West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who has gained ground against Republican John Raese in the race for the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Robert C. Byrd.

Manchin has recently questioned the healthcare insurance overhaul, an Obama centerpiece, and has even said he could support extending all Bush-era tax cuts, even those that Obama has criticized as helping the rich.

michael.muskal@latimes.com
Twitter.com@LATimesmuskal

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