With less than four weeks to go until the critical midterm elections, Missouri State Auditor and Democratic challenger to Sen. Jim Talent, Claire McCaskill, has pulled ahead five points in this key battleground state. The two candidates have been locked in a tight race, running neck and neck for weeks. But in a new poll conducted by Bennett, Petts & Blumenthal, McCaskill now leads Talent 48%-43%.
Other recent independent polls all show McCaskill and Talent in a statistical dead heat, making the new poll more significant since it's outside the 3.5 point margin of error. Rasmussen Reports has polled monthly in Missouri and, in three of the last four months, McCaskill held a minor lead.
McCaskill has had a terrific week in terms of head-to-head debates with Talent. She began the week Sunday with a very strong showing on Meet the Press, landing Talent on the ropes over his positions on Iraq, stem cell research and lockstep Bush voting. On Wednesday, McCaskill had the incumbent on the defensive once again.
The Democrats need six seats to regain control of the Senate. The non-partisan Cook Report this week has Republicans toss-ups in seven states: TN, OH, RI, MT, PA, VA and MO. In New Jersey, polls show Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez with anywhere from a 8-10 point lead.