Sen. Jon Kyl’s double-digit lead in the race for his U.S. Senate seat might be evaporating as voters become increasingly undecided, according to a poll released Wednesday.
Among all voters, Kyl, a Republican, attracts 40 percent to Democrat Jim Pederson’s 34 percent.
However, when just likely voters are counted, Kyl’s lead expands to 9 percentage points.
The poll of 625 registered voters statewide by the Behavior Research Center has a margin of error of 4 percentage points and was conducted from Sept. 26 through Oct. 3.
A different poll released last week showed Kyl enjoyed an 11 percentage point lead among likely voters.
“For the moment it looks like it’s getting tighter,” said Earl de Berge, who heads the research center. “The incumbent is still considerably ahead — he’s not at any risk right now.”
Kyl’s possible slip in support comes as Republicans grapple with the scandal over former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., who exchanged sexually explicit messages with male congressional pages, and the deteriorating situation in Iraq.
To achieve a majority in the Senate, Democrats must defeat six Republican incumbents.
Pederson’s campaign has used television spots to highlight Kyl’s support of the Bush administration and its Iraq policy as the war becomes increasingly unpopular across the country. Pederson also has criticized Kyl’s vote to overhaul Medicare.
De Berge said Pederson’s ads appear to be resonating with retirees, as the poll shows the incumbent holding only a 2 percentage point lead with that demographic.
“People look at Washington and see it’s broken, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s immigration, whether it’s health care,” said Mark Bergman, Pederson’s spokesman.
Poll numbers in the race have fluctuated wildly during the past six months, at times giving Kyl an overwhelming lead just weeks after detecting a near toss-up.
Kyl’s campaign sees no cause for alarm. “The fact that we’re up 9 (percent) and virtually unchanged from three months ago shows that we have strong support and we’re right where we need to be,” said Andy Chasin, a Kyl spokesman.
Chasin dismissed the argument that political struggles over Bush and the Republican Party will significantly influence voters here. “Kyl’s on the ballot,” he said, “Bush is not.”
The University of Virginia Center for Politics has classified six Republican incumbents in the Senate as either trailing slightly or tied with their Democratic challengers. Kyl’s re-election is labeled “likely.”