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Hartford — An opinion poll released Wednesday gives Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon her first lead over Democrat Chris Murphy in an early forecast of their November match-up.
The poll, conducted by Rasmussen Reports, shows McMahon with 49 percent of the likely vote compared to Murphy's 46 percent. Five percent were undecided.
The results mark the first time in this year's Senate race that McMahon, the Greenwich WWE magnate, has out polled Murphy, the 5th Congressional District representative, although the difference between the two is within the margin of error of 4.5 percent.
"I think this poll shows that the people of Connecticut are sick and tired of a professional politician," said Corry Bliss, McMahon's campaign manager.
McMahon handily won the Aug. 14 Republican primary against former Fairfield County Congressman Christopher Shays. Her television ads criticize Murphy's attendance record at congressional sub-committee meetings. In turn, Murphy has defended his 97 percent voting record in the House.
The Murphy campaign downplayed the latest poll results.
"Any poll is a snapshot in time and November is a long way away," campaign spokeswoman Taylor Lavender said in a statement. "We knew this was going to be a competitive race — McMahon has spent over $65 million trying to buy two elections now. But in the end, money doesn't buy elections and voters know that McMahon is only out for herself."
Rasmussen surveyed 500 likely state voters Tuesday.
Murphy had a narrow 3-point lead over McMahon in the last Quinnipiac University poll in June, down from his 15-point lead in March. The three-term congressman easily defeated former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz in this month's Democratic primary.
In her 2010 run for Senate, McMahon once came within 3 points of Democrat Richard Blumenthal in a Quinnipiac poll, although ultimately lost that election by 12 points.
In other developments Wednesday, the McMahon campaign hired a new press spokesman to replace Tim Murtaugh, who abruptly resigned earlier this week after a month and a half on the job.
The new communications director, Todd Abrajano, will arrive from Missouri. He is president of the public relations firm Turning Point Public Affairs, is a 2002 Yale graduate, and was the campaign manager that year for Republican Ross Garber in his failed run for state treasurer.
Bliss declined to provide the reason for Murtaugh's swift departure, saying only, "We wish him the best."
Murtaugh, who is in his mid-40s, joined the McMahon campaign in early July. He replaced Erin Isaac, who left that month to return to Florida for unspecified family reasons.
Murtaugh previously worked for the Republican Governors Association and on various state and national races in Virginia.