Linda McMahon doesn’t have Richard Blumenthal on the ropes yet, but the Republican nominee for the Senate in Connecticut has almost closed the gap on a race that Democrats at one time thought they couldn’t lose.  Ramussen’s latest survey of likely voters shows McMahon trailing by five points, almost within the margin of error for the poll, an improvement of four points in the gap in two weeks.  Furthermore, Blumenthal appears ready to slip under 50% for the first time in the race:

Democrat Richard Blumenthal now holds just a five-point lead over Republican Linda McMahon in Connecticut’s race for the U.S. Senate.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state finds Blumenthal with 50% support and McMahon with 45% when leaners are included. One percent (1%) favor some other candidate, and three percent (3%) are undecided. …

Two weeks ago, when leaners were part of the totals, Blumenthal held a 53% to 44% lead over McMahon. Leaners are those who initially indicate no preference for either of the candidates but answer a follow-up question and say they are leaning towards a particular candidate. Rasmussen Reports now considers results with leaners the primary indicator of the race.

Blumenthal leads 50% to 41% if leaners are not included. In the previous survey, he posted 51% to 43% lead minus leaners.

Blumenthal once led this race by 30 points and was assumed to have rescued it from the debacle of Chris Dodd.  Linda McMahon was once considered too conservative to compete for this seat, as well as too tied to the circus atmosphere of professional wrestling to build credibility with voters.  McMahon has run a smart, issues-focused campaign, and has also been blessed with an opponent that keeps inflicting his own damage to his credibility and reputation.

The leaners in this race are mostly men.  McMahon picks up seven points with men and a single point with women when leaners are considered.  She faces a daunting 16-point gender gap among women, though, and she may need to make a stronger pitch.  McMahon and Blumenthal split the independent vote with leaners at 48% each, but McMahon gets slightly more Democrats (13%) than Blumenthal does Republicans.

Blumenthal, however, has bigger problems in the age demographics.  McMahon wins almost all of them except for the youngest voters, which Blumenthal wins by an 85/15 margin.  Unfortunately, those are the voters who are least likely to make it to the polling places on Election Day.  The Rasmussen poll surveys likely voters and that shouldn’t make a big difference, but only if their likely voter screen accounts properly for youth-vote turnout.

Neither candidate gets a big advantage on favorability or issues, save one.  When asked if federal government policies have put the country on the right  or wrong course, voters respond negatively by 2-1, 27/56.  If McMahon can exploit that in the final five weeks, she should be able to pin the Democratic agenda on Blumenthal and score a huge upset in Connecticut.