Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole's campaign said Tuesday that outside advertising from the Democratic Senatorial Congressional Committee could be hurting Dole.
But they are disavowing new poll numbers showing Dole now slightly behind Democratic challenger Kay Hagan, a state senator.
"I think the DSCC's ads are definitely having an impact on the race," said Dole spokesman Hogan Gidley. "When an outside group comes in and spends millions of dollars ... it's got to affect the race somehow."
Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm in Raleigh, released new numbers Tuesday showing Hagan edging Dole 42-39 among likely voters. That's not far off the margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. The survey of 904 likely voters was conducted Aug. 20-23.
Gidley criticized the company for its push-button polling.
"I think the poll's a bunch of junk for many reasons," Gidley said.
Tom Jensen at PPP attributed Hagan's bump to outside advertising from the Democrats' Senate campaign committee. Two ads, including one showing two elderly men in rocking chairs, question Dole's effectiveness in Washington and accuse her of voting with President Bush 92 percent of the time through 2007. (Dole's vote-with-Bush record is 88 percent through this summer.)
Jensen described the ads as the "political equivalent of a punch in the gut from Muhammad Ali."
Jensen said that while Dole's numbers dropped 10 points, Hagan gained two points. He said a lot of the movement was into the undecided column.
"Elizabeth Dole has plenty of money and a lot of time to recover, but this race has moved itself firmly into the tossup category over the last month, a designation that would have once seemed unthinkable," Jensen wrote in a release with the poll results.
Matthew Miller of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said the ads confirm what people already know about Dole.
"They don't see much of Dole, and they don't know what she's done," he said.
The DSCC introduced a third ad Monday that again questions Dole's effectiveness and ties her to Bush.
Hagan spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan said Hagan's ads, too, are having an effect. Hagan has two ads airing right now, one a biography about her, another that talks about the middle class.
"Elizabeth Dole did not expect a tough race," Flanagan said.