PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The New Jersey governor's race is virtually tied between Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine and Republican Christopher Christie after months in which the challenger held the lead, a poll released on Wednesday said.
The New Jersey election on November 3, together with another gubernatorial contest in Virginia, may offer early signs of public sentiment toward President Barack Obama.
The Quinnipiac University poll conducted October 7-12 gave Christie 41 percent of the vote against 40 percent for Corzine and 14 percent for independent candidate Chris Daggett.
That compares with a four-point lead for Christie in the previous Quinnipiac poll, and bigger advantages for Christie in other polls over recent months.
On October 6, a poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University also put Corzine and Christie within a point of each other, eroding an earlier lead for Christie, a former U.S. attorney.
"It's a nail-biter," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Christopher Christie has never given up the lead but it's been getting slimmer, and now it's a dead heat."
Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. senator, has trailed Christie throughout the campaign in a heavily Democratic state despite visits by Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
The latest poll shows New Jersey voters disapprove of the job Corzine is doing by 56 percent to 39 percent, but the negative score is his best approval rating in months.
Corzine is viewed unfavorably by 53 percent of voters, compared with 40 percent who view him favorably. That compares with 40 percent who view Christie unfavorably, against 38 percent with a favorable impression.
Voters agree by 59 percent to 35 percent with Christie's claim that Corzine has failed to make enough budget cuts. But they also agree by a margin of 59 percent to 25 percent with Corzine's claim that Christie is too vague about his budget plans.
(Reporting by Jon Hurdle; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Vicki Allen)