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New Polls Illustrate Senate Battleground Shift

New Senate polling out Sunday offers the latest evidence of where the top races to watch will be come November.

Through last year, the open-seat race in Ohio was widely seen as one of the top Senate battlegrounds, while many observers saw Republicans as favored to hold the open seat in Kentucky. Also, through much of this year, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was stuck polling in the mid-40s against Republican Carly Fiorina.

But with five weeks to go, things have changed.

In Kentucky, tea party favorite Rand Paul has so far been unable to put away the race in the GOP-leaning state. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has even gone on the air there to help boost Paul in a state the party shouldn’t have difficulty winning in a favorable cycle.

A SurveyUSA poll done for the Louisville Courier-Journal showed Paul and Democrat Jack Conway statistically tied. Paul took 49 percent to Conway’s 47 percent, with 4 percent undecided. The automated poll of 611 likely voters was taken Tuesday to Thursday and had a 4-point margin of error.

In Ohio, former Rep. Rob Portman (R) holds a 15-point lead over Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D), who had pulled even with Portman for two months coming out of the May 4 primaries. Fisher led by double digits in some early polls last year. However, he has been unable to keep up with Portman’s fundraising, and four of the past five polls have shown Portman with a double-digit lead.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has not spent money on TV ads in Ohio yet, and this latest string of polling indicates it probably won’t.

The Ohio Senate poll was conducted by the University of Cincinnati for the Ohio Newspaper Association. It surveyed 852 likely voters Sept. 16-20 and had a 3.4-point margin of error.

In California, a Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll showed Boxer at 51 percent and ahead of Fiorina by 8 points, a much stronger position for the incumbent heading into the final month. More polls like this could force the NRSC to re-evaluate the $1.9 million in coordinated funds it has committed to Fiorina for ads in the Los Angeles market.

The poll was jointly conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic firm, and Viewpoint, a Republican firm, and surveyed 887 likely voters Sept. 15-22. The poll had a 3.3-point margin of error.

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