Senate poll: Heller 47, Berkley 40


A poll released today by Rasmussen Reports has Sen. Dean Heller up 47-40 over challenger Rep. Shelley Berkley, the first Nevada Senate survey in months showing either candidate in a lead greater than the margin of error.

It is Rasmussen's first poll in the Nevada race, so it is difficult to judge it against earlier efforts. Plus, Rasmussen limits its crosstabs to paying subscribers so it is difficult for the public to dissect its findings.

Recent surveys by Public Policy Polling (in October), the Las Vegas Review-Journal (in December) and Public Opinion Strategies (in February) showed the race to be closer.

But most recently, Berkley grabbed headlines but also mixed reviews on a couple of high-profile issues.  Earlier this month she demanded radio talker Rush Limbaugh to be taken off the air for insulting a law student who advocated for government-mandated insurance coverage of contraception.

And last week she challenged Heller to sign onto a pledge to restrict outside advertising in their race.   Several Nevada editorial pages and prominent columnists criticized Berkley for overreaching in those cases, but her positions also enabled her to reach out to women and to voters who believe money is out of control in politics.

Zac Petkanas, a Democratic strategist in Nevada,  described the Rasmussen poll as "irrelevant."  Democrats noted Rasmussen was among the polling organizations that miscalled the Nevada Senate race of 2010 in favor of Sharron Angle over Sen. Harry Reid.

Rasmussen, which polls through automated telephone calls, contacted 500 Nevadans on Tuesday.  The poll carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.