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Warren leads Brown in Massachusetts Senate race

Elizabeth Warren speaks with voters as she campaigns after announcing her candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Framingham
Elizabeth Warren speaks with voters as she campaigns after announcing her candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Framingham

BOSTON (Reuters) - Elizabeth Warren, a prominent consumer advocate and former official in President Barack Obama's administration, narrowly leads Republican Senator Scott Brown in a poll released on Tuesday, days after announcing her run for his Senate seat from Massachusetts.

The Democrat Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and Wall Street critic, leads Brown by 46 percent to 44 percent in a survey taken September 16 to 18 by Public Policy Polling.

The survey involved 791 Massachusetts voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent, suggesting Warren and Brown are in a dead heat.

Republicans are eager to hold the seat Brown won in a huge upset over a Democratic candidate in January 2010 after the death of longtime Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy in August 2009.

Warren's entrance, and her campaign message of fighting for the middle class, has made the contest one of the most closely watched congressional races of 2012.

When PPP surveyed Massachusetts in early June Brown held a solid, 15-point lead against Warren, the creator of the Obama administration's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Warren locked horns with Wall Street in her work setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and as chairwoman of the congressional panel created to oversee the U.S. banking bailout in 2008.

Warren's well-publicized campaign launch boosted her name recognition to 62 percent from 38 percent in June. Her favorability rating rose to 40 percent against 22 percent unfavorable, against 21 percent/17 percent in June.

"The launch of Elizabeth Warren's candidacy has been an undeniable success," said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling.

Brown, 52, who campaigned as an everyman who drives a pickup truck, has been popular with voters since his election, staking out mostly moderate positions in Congress.

The latest poll, however, showed Brown's approval at 44 percent against 45 percent disapproval. In December 2010 Brown held an impressive 24-point favorability spread, 53 percent to 29 percent.

Warren, 62, will face several other Democrats in a primary election in September 2012 for the right to compete against Brown in the general election.

The survey showed Brown far ahead of other Democrats, including Alan Khazei, founder of a youth development program; Setti Warren, mayor of the wealthy town of Newton; and Bob Massie, a former candidate for state lieutenant governor.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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