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Published: Wednesday, 2/24/2010

Poll finds Fisher leading Democrats in race for U.S. Senate seat


COLUMBUS - If the election were held today, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher would win the battle for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in May but lose the war in November to Republican Rob Portman, a poll released Wednesday suggests.

The Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University poll of 1,662 Ohio voters conducted in mid-February shows that Mr. Portman, a former Cincinnati area congressman and White House budget director, leads in hypothetical match-ups with the two leading Democratic contenders - Mr. Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

"Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher has put some distance between himself and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, but 48 percent of Democrats are undecided about who to support in the May 4 primary," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Fisher rates slightly higher than Ms. Brunner on a number of measures of support."

Among the poll's findings:

• Mr. Fisher leads Ms. Brunner in the contest for the Democratic nomination 29 percent to 20 percent, but 48 percent remain undecided. The two are tied when it comes to support from women while Mr. Fisher has a 20-point lead among men.

• Mr. Portman, with no primary opponent, leads Mr. Fisher in a hypothetical match-up for Nov. 2, holding 40 percent of voter support compared to Mr. Fisher's 37 percent. Twenty-one percent are decided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, so this race could still be a statistical tie.

• Mr. Portman leads Ms. Brunner in a hypothetical general election contest 40 percent to 35 percent with 23 percent undecided.

All are vying to replace retiring Republican U.S. Sen. George Voinovich.

The last Quinnipiac Poll in November showed a much tighter race between Mr. Fisher and Ms. Brunner. There's been little movement in their respective match-ups with Mr. Portman since November, but what little movement there has been has been to Mr. Portman's advantage.

Polling began before last week's deadline for candidates to file petitions to officially enter the race, so the data does not reflect any impact, if any, that two last-minute entries could have on the Democratic primary race.

Traci (TJ) Johnson, a Toledo native now living near Columbus, and Charlena Renee Bradley, of Lyndhurst, have also joined the race.

The Libertarian, Constitution, and Socialist parties, meanwhile, are offering Steven R. Linnabary, Eric W. Deaton, and Daniel H. LaBotz, respectively.

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