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Polls Improve For GOP Senators

Last week's announced retirements of GOP Sens. John Warner of Virginia and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska gave Republicans pause about their prospects in the 2008 races. But there's brighter news this week for the party's potential in New Hampshire and Kentucky.

Republican Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire has closed the gap in his re-election bid, according to a new poll from the American Research Group. The Sununu seat is a top target for Senate Democrats.

Former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, the highly touted Democratic candidate who announced her bid on Friday, had led Sununu in the summer by 28 percentage points, 57 to 29 percent, in an earlier poll. In the new poll, Shaheen leads Sununu by just 5 points, 46 to 41 percent.

Sununu has closed the gap because "Republicans are now more apt to say they would vote for Sununu," according to the poll. Among Republicans, 80 percent say they would vote for Sununu, a 19-percentage-point increase since June.

In Kentucky, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell has seen his positive ratings reach above 50 percent in two recent polls, dampening the likelihood that he will face any major opposition next year funded by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

A TargetPoint poll from mid-August, released today, pegs McConnell's job approval rating at 53 percent and his disapproval rating at 30 percent. A recent poll had put his approval rating at 47 percent.

A Voter/Consumer Research poll, meanwhile, taken in early August and provided to U.S. News today, put his approval rating at 59 percent, with 35 percent disapproving.

McConnell's early high disapproval ratings were linked to his support for the war in Iraq and President Bush; the change is most likely part of the overall shift in the public's mood in the past month, said an adviser.

By Paul Bedard and Silla Brush

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