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Meehan up four points in new poll

Meehan up four points in new poll

Republican Pat Meehan is holding a narrow four-point lead over Democrat Bryan Lentz just weeks before Election Day, in the latest indication that the 7th Congressional District remains fiercely competitive.

In a Monmouth University poll released Thursday, Meehan garners 49 percent of likely voters, compared to 45 percent for Lentz. Just seven percent of voters are undecided or prefer another candidate. The survey was the first public poll taken of the open-seat race in suburban Philadelphia, where Meehan, a former U.S. Attorney, and Lentz, a two-term state lawmaker, have been battling fiercely. Both campaigns have long expected a close race.

Despite Meehan’s lead, the results have to be heartening for Lentz and his supporters. He is outperforming the generic congressional ballot in the district, and is nipping at Meehan’s heels despite facing an opponent who was better-known from the start thanks to years as Delaware County District Attorney. Meehan’s lead is just outside the margin of error, and the poll did not include independent candidate Jim Schneller, a conservative who can presumably pull votes from Meehan. If internal Democratic polling echoes the public survey, it’s likely that the party’s congressional campaign committee will invest heavily in the race.

But there’s downside for Lentz, too. Meehan is expected to carry a significant financial advantage into the closing weeks of the race. And while Lentz has already been on TV with relatively modest ad buys for weeks, Meehan has saved his campaign war chest for a media blitz that could eventually swamp Lentz off the airwaves.

Fifty percent of likely voters disapprove of President Obama’s job performance, and both parties are viewed unfavorably by a majority of respondents.

“This district mirrors the national mood,” Monmouth University polling director Patrick Murray said. “Voters are disappointed with the way the country has gone over the past two years and blame both political parties, but they have to choose someone.”

In another finding that could foreshadow some trouble for Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak, he is leading Republican rival Pat Toomey by only three points in the 7th, within the margin of error—despite the fact that the survey was taken in the district he represents.

Meehan remains better known, but that gap is not what internal polling demonstrated months ago. Thirty percent of likely voters don’t have an opinion, compared to 37 percent who say the same of Lentz. Meehan enjoys higher favorability ratings, and echoing findings in battleground districts across the country, he has significantly more strength among independent voters. Meehan leads among male voters, while Lentz holds a smaller edge with women.

The survey of 670 likely voters, conducted Oct. 4-6, had a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

Click here to see the poll.

Correction: This article originally misstated President Obama’s approval ratings as reported by the poll. Fifty percent of respondents disapproved of his job performance, and 44 percent approved, not the other way around.

October 7, 2010 at 3:10 pm

--Dan Hirschhorn

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