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Joe Sestak Pulls Even With Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania Senate Race, Poll Finds

Rep. Joe Sestak,D-Penn., who won the Democratic nomination for the Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks to the media outside the Capitol, May 28, 2010. Getty Images/Alex Wong

After months of trailing Republican Pat Toomey in the Pennsylvania Senate race, a new independent poll shows Democratic candidate Joe Sestak leading Toomey by three points, a spread that's within the margin of error.

The poll, which was conducted by Muhlenberg College/Morning Call from October 16-19, showed Sestak with 44 percent support and Toomey with 41 percent support. Fifteen percent of voters said they were undecided or planned to vote for someone else.

This is the first independent poll in recent months to put Sestak in the lead: Toomey has largely enjoyed a statistical edge since late spring, and CBS currently rates the race "edge Republican."

Data from two separate Muhlenberg College/Allentown Morning Call polls in September showed Toomey with a seven point advantage over Sestak, with 46 percent support to the Democrat's 39.

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But recent numbers note an uptick in support for the embattled Democrat, who faced a tough fight against longtime Senator Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination.

A report released yesterday by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) puts Sestak at 46 percent, and Toomey at 45 percent. In August, PPP had Toomey leading Sestak by 45 to 36 percent.

Additional data shows that another tight contest could be moving in the Democrats' favor: a Rasmussen report released Tuesday shows Democratic Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway within five points of Republican Rand Paul, with Paul leading by 47 percent to 42 percent - the smallest lead Paul has had in the poll.

Toomey and Sestak will face off tonight in a live televised debate at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center.

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Lucy Madison
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.