For the past six weeks, the presidential race in Florida has been neck-and-neck, and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has led Republican Rep. Connie Mack by a comfortable margin in that state's Senate race. But a new Mason-Dixon poll conducted this week in the wake of Mitt Romney's strong debate performance shows the Republican presidential nominee opening up a 7-point lead in the Sunshine State, and his party's Senate nominee now trails within the margin of error.
The poll, conducted Oct. 8-10 for the Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times, Spanish-language El Nuevo Herald and two in-state cable news TV stations, shows Nelson with a slight lead over Mack, 47 percent to 42 percent. Four percent of likely voters prefer another candidate, while 7 percent are undecided. The poll surveyed 800 likely voters, for a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points.
That represents a slight tightening in the race from mid-September, when Nelson led Mack by 8 percentage points, 48 percent to 40 percent.
The Mason-Dixon poll is not the only word on the Senate race since the first presidential debate, however. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released earlier this week showed Obama maintaining a scant, 1-point lead on Romney, and Nelson with a double-digit advantage over Mack.
Mack has said that if Romney carries Florida, the party's standard-bearer would drag him over the finish line and into Nelson's Senate seat. But this week's polls suggest Romney needs to run up the score and win the state in convincing fashion in order for his coattails to carry Mack with him.
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