Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has a 5-point lead over his Republican primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, according to a new GOP poll.
That’s in contrast to a survey conducted by a group backing McDaniel earlier this month, which showed him leading Cochran by 4 points.
Harper Polling, which is run by a former top National Republican Congressional Committee strategist, is considered more establishment-minded, and every poll it has conducted of the race has shown Cochran up. But this is the first of its surveys that has shown McDaniel within single digits of the incumbent, and the difference between the candidates was nearly within the margin of error.
The poll confirms that the Mississippi race remains tight just days from the election, despite a controversy that is dogging McDaniel's campaign.
McDaniel has struggled to respond to the arrest of an apparent supporter who allegedly sneaked into a nursing home to photograph of Cochran's wife. Three other men have been charged with conspiracy in connection to the scheme, and Cochran’s campaign recently launched ads tying the men to McDaniel.
McDaniel has repeatedly denied any knowledge of or involvement in the making of a video that featured the image of Cochran's wife.
But it appears the attacks are taking a toll on the state senator. He was seen unfavorably by half of respondents in the Harper poll, while 37 percent viewed him favorably.
That’s in contrast to Cochran, who was seen favorably by 45 percent and unfavorably by 39 percent.
However, though the attacks appear to be hurting McDaniel's reputation, they might not doom his chances on Election Day.
While 41 percent of respondents say they’re less likely to vote for McDaniel because of what they’ve seen, read or heard about the scandal, 56 percent split evenly saying it made them either more likely to vote for him or would have no impact on their votes.
And the fact that McDaniel has kept Cochran to a single-digit lead despite the persistent negative press looming over his campaign is an indicator of just how vulnerable Cochran is heading into Tuesday's primary.
If Cochran does win the nomination, Republicans are confident they'll hold onto the seat in the fall. If McDaniel is successful, however, Republicans and Democrats alike believe former Democratic Rep. Travis Childers, the party's likely nominee, has a shot at picking up the seat.
The survey was conducted among 599 likely GOP primary voters May 27-28 and has a margin of error of 4 points.