A new poll shows two-term incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill with a slight lead over her leading Republican challenger in this year’s election.

Sen. Claire McCaskill -D

McCaskill has a razor tight 45%-to-44% lead over Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley in a survey conducted by the Democratic affiliated firm Public Policy Polling.  The advantage for McCaskill is not certain, given that the margin of error in the research is plus-or-minus 3.2%.

Two Washington D.C. based organizations that track elections, the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales, have rated the Missouri Senate race as a toss-up.

The poll does reveal some trends that could favor McCaskill.  It shows Missourians narrowly approve of President Trump’s job performance, 49%-to-48%, after the Republican carried the state by a 19-point margin in the 2016 election.

In a specifically worded question from the polling firm, 28% said they want a Senator who is loyal to Donald Trump and wants to promote his agenda, versus 64% who prefer someone that is independent and will put Missouri first.

Republican Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is running for the U.S. Senate

Hawley’s loyalty to the Republican Party has been under the spotlight lately.  The Attorney General has been pressed to take action over possible indiscretions by GOP Governor Eric Greitens.

Hawley is investigating the Greitens administration’s use of a cell phone app that may be erasing text messages of official government business. He’s declined to conduct a probe into blackmail allegations against Greitens for jurisdictional reasons.

Deeper digging by the Public Policy poll revealed 23% of voters in the state approve of the job Mitch McConnell is doing as Senate Majority Leader, to 54% who disapprove.

In its release, the firm said the question shows that “Senate Republicans have a terrible brand in Missouri”.  The poll did not include a question about the state’s Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt.

In another specifically worded question regarding the Affordable Care Act, the Public Policy poll showed 54% of Missourians “would rather keep it in place and makes fixes to it as necessary” versus 38% who think the best path forward on health care is to repeal the health care law.  McCaskill strongly supports modifying the Affordable Care Act without ditching it.

The survey posed the exact same question about both McCaskill and Hawley, “Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion?”  Response was evenly split for McCaskill, 44%-to-44%, while Hawley scored a slightly better, but lower 29%-to-26%.

45% said they were “not sure” about their opinion of Hawley, which could reflect less knowledge of his role in state government among respondents, or less familiarity with Hawley himself.

The poll showed strong support for the DACA program, which has not been renewed by President Trump.  The program offers relief from deportation and work permits to people who entered the country illegally as minors.  800,000 individuals are currently enrolled in DACA.

The Public Policy poll refers to the DACA enrollees as “young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. unlawfully as children”.  It asks if the enrollees should be allowed to “remain in the country, as long as they meet certain requirements such as going to school or joining the military, and not having a criminal record?”  71% responded the polls wording in support the DACA program, versus 27% who oppose it.

Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the Public Policy poll, 37%-to-34%.  Women outnumbered men, 53%-to-47%.  Whites outnumbered African Americans, 82%-to-11%.

Another new poll conducted at the beginning of January by the Missouri based, and Republican affiliated firm Remington Research , showed Hawley with a 49%-to-45% advantage over McCaskill in the November’s Senate race.  It had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.9%.

The Remington Research survey showed a 50% approval rating for President Trump’s job performance versus 44% disapproval.  The poll, which was taken before revelations of Governor Greitens extra marital affair and allegations of blackmail, showed Greitens with a narrowly favorable approval rating of 42%-to-41%.

Both the Public Policy and Remington Research polls opted not to include other candidates in the Senate race.  To date, four people are running against Hawley in the Republican primary.  They include former Libertarian presidential candidate Austin Petersen, retired Air Force pilot Tony Monetti and Arkansas transplant Courtland Sykes.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Kansas City lawyer Craig O’Dear, a longtime Republican, is also considering a run for the seat as an Independent.