WASHINGTON (Detroit Free Press) - New poll results show President Barack Obama back in front in Michigan and former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra holding a comfortable - though tightening - lead over his Aug. 7 primary election rival for the right to face Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow this fall.
In the presidential race, Lansing-based EPIC-MRA released a poll of 600 likely voters on Tuesday showing the Democrat, Obama, leading presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney 48%-42%. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for the survey, which was conducted July 24-31.
The results are part of a recent trend of polls showing Obama opening up a lead over Romney, even though groups supporting the Republican candidate have been hammering the president in expensive TV campaigns in Michigan. On Tuesday, for example, Washington, D.C-based Crossroads GPS put out an ad blasting the president that's supposed to run 10 days in the state at a cost of $722,000.
Last week, a Mitchell Research poll gave Romney a razor-thin 45%-44% lead in Michigan, well within the margin of error, but several other recent polls have shown Obama ahead in the state - which he won by 16 points in 2008. Rasmussen Reports had Obama leading Romney by 6 points last week, while Public Policy Polling put his lead at 14 points.
Meanwhile, Hoekstra - a Republican who represented a West Michigan congressional district before running for governor two years ago - held a 51%-27% over Clark Durant, a founder of Detroit's Cornerstone Schools system, according to EPIC-MRA's survey of 800 likely voters in next Tuesday's Republican Senate primary.
Fifteen percent remained undecided. A former west Michigan probate judge, Randy Hekman, got 4% while Gary Glenn, who is out of the race but will appear on the ballot, got 3%. The winner will face Stabenow in November.
With the campaigns sparring, Durant's numbers have improved from a Public Policy Polling survey which last week showed him trailing Hoekstra 51%-17% with 26% undecided, but with only a week to go until the voting, it may be too late for him to catch up, said Bernie Porn, of EPIC-MRA.
The recent spate of publicity surrounding the race and Durant - including a Free Press article a week ago showing he makes more as chief strategist, fundraiser and operational guru for Cornerstone and two closely linked groups than the heads of many other nonprofit organizations or charter school networks - has increased Durant's name recognition.
He has a 46% favorable rating compared to 21% unfavorable, with 33% of respondents saying they had never heard of him or had no opinion. That still lags Hoekstra, however, with a 67% favorable and 22% unfavorable rating. Eleven percent said they had never heard of him.
For the Senate poll, EPIC-MRA surveyed 800 likely primary voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 pecentage points.