NOTE: THIS STORY HAS BEEN CORRECTED.
The 7th Congressional District race between Republican Pat Meehan and Democrat Bryan Lentz had been a question mark on the map of competitive U.S. House races, mainly because of the lack of independent polling in the Delaware County-based district.
Suddenly, we're waist-deep in polls, including today's Daily News/Franklin & Marshall College poll showing Lentz trailing Meehan by only a few percentage points among likely voters with the midterm elections less than three weeks away.
And a poll released yesterday by The Hill, a congressional newspaper, put Meehan one point ahead of Lentz, 40 percent to 39 percent.
Those two surveys, combined with last week's Monmouth University Poll that had Meehan ahead of Lentz, 49 percent to 45 percent, show that Lentz has a chance of withstanding the national Republican "wave" that could give the GOP control of the House. In all three polls, Meehan's edge is within the margin of error.
Meehan, 54, a former U.S. attorney and county district attorney from Upper Darby, and Lentz, 46, an Iraq War veteran and second-term state representative from Swarthmore, are vying to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, who is running for U.S. Senate.
"Lentz doesn't carry that problem of being a member of Congress. I think that's actually a little bit helpful for him, because he's not an incumbent who voted for the Obama agenda," said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall poll.
That survey, conducted Oct. 5-11, has Meehan leading Lentz, 33 percent to 28 percent among registered voters, and 34 percent to 31 percent among likely voters.
"It's a competitive election, one that is still very much in play," Madonna said. "I don't think anyone can say this is a runaway or a rout. We don't know for sure how it's going to turn out."
An internal poll conducted for the Lentz campaign last week by Benenson Strategy Group - President Obama's pollster - has Lentz behind Meehan by a few points, but within the margin of error, according to a Democratic source.
But a recent poll commissioned by local Republicans shows Meehan leading, 42 percent to 30 percent. That survey was conducted Oct. 3-4 by GOP pollster Neil Newhouse at Public Opinion Strategies.
The candidates differ on the key issues of this election cycle, including job-creation, stimulus spending, health-care reform and the Bush-era tax cuts.
But the nationally watched race has become more personal in recent weeks, with the Meehan campaign painting Lentz as an untrustworthy politician who failed to adhere to his own reform agenda in Harrisburg, and the Lentz campaign lampooning Meehan's lackluster performance at last month's debate.
The new polls also show that Jim Schneller, a third-party conservative who gained a place on the ballot with the help of a Lentz campaign worker, could cost Meehan the election if the race tightens and Schneller siphons off a percentage point or two, as Democrats hope.
Last week, Meehan's campaign said it was backing out of tonight's League of Women Voters debate because Schneller was invited to participate.
Schneller, who can expect some free publicity from the debate, is pulling 2 percent of likely voters in the F&M poll, with 34 percent still undecided.