Simmons grows lead to nine over Dodd

Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) has extended his lead in Connecticut's Senate race, even though Sen. Chris Dodd's (D-Conn.) approval rating is improving slightly.

The newest Quinnipiac poll shows Simmons leading 48-39, up from 45-39 in the same poll in late May. Over that same span, Dodd's approval rating has gone from 38 percent positive and 53 percent negative to 42 and 52, respectively.

We've talked plenty about Dodd recovering his good name, but even if he does to some extent, does that necessarily mean Simmons couldn't beat him anyways?

The survey is the latest bit of good polling news for the GOP, which learned Wednesday that former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) was in a virtual tie with Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.). Former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has also closed the gap slightly in recent weeks in Ohio's open Senate race.

Dodd remains Republicans' top incumbent target for 2010, but before he's matched up with Simmons, the former congressman faces primary competition.

The poll found that he starts out with a large lead in the primary, taking 42 percent while no other candidate takes more than 5 percent. Still, former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley raised significant money in the second quarter and could pose a threat to Simmons in the primary.

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