Independent poll shows Senate race in Missouri now statistically tied

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) is statistically tied with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in a new independent poll of the race, but she retains a double-digit lead in an internal Democratic poll.

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The independent poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Reserach for KMOV, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star, gives McCaskill 45-percent support to Akin's 43-percent support among likely voters. That's within the poll's 4-percentage-point margin of error, indicating the two candidates are statistically neck-and-neck.

But Democrats released an internal poll on Saturday that gave McCaskill a 15-point lead on Akin. That poll shows her support essentially unchanged from the previous week, at 53 percent to Akin's 39 percent.

The Post-Dispatch/Mason-Dixon poll, however, shows a significant tightening of the race since the last Mason-Dixon survey, conducted in late August. That poll came just a few days after Akin said that pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape" is rare because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Those comments sparked a widespread backlash among the GOP.

Akin was publicly disavowed by fellow GOP Senate candidates and Republican leaders. Mitt Romney eventually asked him to withdraw from the race amid concerns that his continued candidacy would jeopardize what they initially considered an easy win, and consequently their chances at regaining a majority in the Senate.

But Akin persisted, and has since lagged behind McCaskill in the polls by small but solid margins. Without the backing of his party, he's also struggled to raise funds to blanket Missouri airwaves as McCaskill has been able to do.

However, the day after the release of this new independent poll, Akin launched two new ads in the race. Both are positive spots, one that issues Akin's closing pitch, and one that uses former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to vouch for Akin's character.

The first ad, "Jobs & Paychecks," touts Akin's personal background as the basis for his policies.

"Married 37 years, the father of 6, Todd Akin puts our families first in everything he does," a voiceover says.

And in the second ad, Huckabeee describes Akin as "a good man with a Christian heart who's withstood a test of fire and emerged from the flame as strong as steel."

Just 10 days out from the election, a win for Akin still seems unlikely. But the Post-Dispatch/Mason-Dixon poll gives him further good news: Forty-four percent of voters say Akin's comments on rape are not important to them.

Though a majority, 53 percent, rated his comments as important, the red lean of the state and the fact that some voters may be willing to forgive him for the comments may indicate Akin has an opening in the final stretch.

The Post-Dispatch/Mason-Dixon poll was conducted among 625 registered Missouri voters from Oct. 23 through Oct. 25 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The Democratic poll was conducted on Oct. 24 and Oct. 25 by Kiley & Company among 600 likely Missouri voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Watch "Jobs & Paychecks":