A new poll released early Friday shows Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., running neck-and-neck in what could be a pivotal race in determining which party controls the Senate following the 2012 elections.
The poll, conducted by the University of Nevada-Las Vegas for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and KLAS-TV, shows Berkley narrowly leading Heller among all registered voters, 44 percent to 43 percent, well within the poll's margin of error of +/- 4 percent.
Berkley wins the support of three-fourths of Democrats, while Heller holds 77 percent of Republicans, according to the Review-Journal. Among independents, Heller leads, 49 percent to 36 percent. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lost among independents by four points in his 2010 reelection victory in Nevada, according to exit polls.
The candidates both run stronger in their respective geographic bases of support. In Clark County, which includes Berkley's Las Vegas-based congressional district, the Democrat leads, 51 percent to 37 percent. But in the rest of the state, which includes Heller's old congressional district, the Republican leads, 56 percent to 32 percent. Roughly two-thirds of voters responding to the poll reside in Clark County.
Heller represented a vast, sparsely-populated congressional district from 2007 until earlier this year, when Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed him to replace disgraced Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who resigned.
Heller's bid to keep his seat is likely to be one of the more closely watched Senate races of the 2012 cycle, combined with what is likely to be a spirited race for the Silver State's six electoral voters in the presidential race. Data from this new poll released Thursday showed President Obama leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the state, 46 percent to 40 percent.
The poll was conducted Dec. 12-20, surveying 600 registered voters.
CORRECTION: The original version of this post misspelled Rep. Shelley Berkley's name.