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Arkansas voters, or in this case self-identified "likely" voters, can still surprise.

Check out the latest poll numbers in this state's 2nd Congressional District that show not one, but two, seriously close major races in this ruby red state.

Rather, the races are close within the 2nd Congressional District (the only part of the state polled) for president and for the congressional seat representing those seven Central Arkansas counties.

According to the poll, conducted Sept. 4-9 by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College and released this week, Democrat Joe Biden has a 4-point edge among 2nd District voters over Republican Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election as president.

That's surprising enough, even though a statewide poll would more likely show greater support for Trump.

The bigger surprise is in the 2nd District itself.

U.S. Rep. French Hill, the incumbent Republican, has a tick-tight lead of just 1.5 percent over Joyce Elliott, the state senator who is his Democratic challenger.

Keep this potential upset in perspective.

The last Democrat to serve in any of the state's four congressional districts was U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, who left the 4th District seat in January 2014. Arkansas has since sent only Republicans to represent this state.

Elliott, a former Little Rock teacher with lengthy service in the Arkansas Legislature, has built a solid following among Democrats.

These latest poll results suggest she may be reaching independents and perhaps even some disenchanted Republicans. Her showing could also indicate she's riding former Vice President Biden's coattails with some of the 2nd District's likely voters.

She'll be happy to have those votes, if not the near-certain attack ads her strong showing will attract.

The Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll reflects survey results from 698 likely voters in Pulaski County and six counties that ring the state's most populous county.

Pulaski County typically contributes more than half the voters in the 2nd District while the rest come from Saline, Faulkner, White, Perry, Conway and Van Buren counties.

The sampling of 698 likely voters, which reflects that division, is sizable, with a margin of error of +/-4.3 percent.

That means the congressional race is "a virtual dead heat," as Talk Business & Politics reported this week.

The presidential race isn't as close but reflects what Roby Brock, editor-in-chief of Talk Business & Politics, called a "remarkable turnaround" in Arkansas, considering Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by nearly 11 percentage points in the 2nd District.

Before anyone gets too excited -- or upset -- over these numbers, remember this: Like all polls, this one is a snapshot of voter opinion at the time it was taken, in early September. The Nov. 3 general election is a long way off.

Yes, the time is down to fewer than 50 days but a lot will happen in the remaining weeks of what is expected to be a heated and costly campaign.

These recent poll results likely raised both the temperature and the price tag.

The question put to those surveyed was, if the election were being held that day, for whom they would vote.

In the presidential race, the survey listed Trump and Biden as well as Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian, and Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate. A dozen candidates for president will be on the Arkansas ballot.

In the poll, Biden pulled 49 percent, Trump 45 percent, Jorgensen 1.5 percent and Hawkins, 0.5 percent. "Someone else" got 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent said they didn't know how they'd vote.

In the congressional race poll, Hill got 47.5 percent and Elliott 46 percent while 6.5 percent were undecided.

Much can and will be read into all those numbers. They do make the Arkansas election look at least a little more relevant.

Neither Biden nor Trump, Hill nor Elliott broke 50 percent in this poll. All of them had strong enough showings to attract more support, meaning more money from existing and new backers.

These are high-stakes contests, followed by people with all kinds of agendas, who will pay to sway voters.

Arkansas' election may not matter much to the presidential contest, but fresh interest in the 2nd District congressional race could open a crack for an Arkansas Democrat to snatch a congressional seat again.

Brenda Blagg is a freelance columnist and longtime journalist in Northwest Arkansas. Email her at [email protected]

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