Washington — The race for retiring Joe Lieberman’s Senate seat has turned into a horse race, with Republican Linda McMahon running neck-and-neck with Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy, a Rasmussen poll shows.

The poll of 500 likely Connecticut voters, taken Monday and released Wednesday, showed 49 percent for McMahon and 46 percent for Murphy, a statistical dead heat since the poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Gary Rose, head of the political science department at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, said the poll’s results show McMahon’s attacks on Murphy seem to be gaining traction. A Public Policy poll taken last month had Murphy 8 percentage points over McMahon.

“She has been effectively defining (Murphy) in the last month,” Rose said.

McMahon has accused Murphy of slashing Medicare because he supported the Affordable Care Act, which cuts hundreds of millions of dollars in fees to hospitals and doctors who participate in the Medicare Advantage program but does not cut benefits for the program’s recipients. A proposed Republican budget would do the same.

McMahon has also pummeled Murphy for failing to attend all hearings held by a congressional committee he belongs to — although most hearings on Capitol Hill are attended by very few lawmakers.

McMahon has also condemned Murphy for lacking a jobs plan, although she’s declined to debate him on that issue.

Rose said the Rasmussen poll shows that attack ads work. “People believe what they see and nobody fact-checks,” he said.

Murphy has also attacked McMahon — especially in his effort to link her to a GOP “war on women” and controversial positions espoused by more conservative Republicans.

But unlike multimillionaire McMahon who is pouring her personal wealth into her campaign, Murphy can’t afford to blanket the state with attack ads.

The Murphy campaign Wednesday conceded the race is tight, but said the poll is only “a snapshot in time.”

“We knew this was going to be a competitive race. McMahon has spent over $65 million trying to buy two elections now,” said Murphy campaign spokeswoman Taylor Lavender.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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