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Scott Brown pulls ahead of Elizabeth Warren in Mass. Senate race

Sen. Scott Brown, the Republican who famously won the seat held by Edward Kennedy, has built an early lead against Elizabeth Warren in what will be a closely watched race nationally. 

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Democrat Elizabeth Warren talks with people at a diner in Framingham, Mass., during her first day of campaigning for the US Senate last year, challenging incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R).

Josh Reynolds/AP/File

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New polls this week show Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts leaping ahead of Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, as one of the closely watched Senate campaigns of 2012 is about to get under way in earnest.

The race, set to ramp up following Tuesday's Massachusetts primary vote, important for two big reasons: the symbolism and the simple math.

On the math front, Republicans hope to take control of the Senate and holding on to Senator Brown's seat could be key. 

Symbolically, the outcome could reveal whether a Republican senator can deepen his roots in a "blue state" that usually votes Democratic, or whether he will be unseated by an unabashed champion of anti-Wall-Street populism.

The latest poll, released Sunday by Western New England University, shows Brown's support at 49 percent of registered voters, compared with 41 percent for Ms. Warren.

That echoes a Rasmussen poll released last week, surveying likely voters, with showed Brown at 49 percent to Warren's 44 percent.

Both candidates have some national name recognition: Warren for her combative tone as head of a congressionally appointed oversight panel on bank bailouts, and Brown for his upset win in an early 2010 special election after the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D).

Brown's victory put Democrats nationwide on notice that they faced tough sledding in a year that ultimately left Republicans in control of the House of Representatives.

It's probably too early to read much into the polls other than that a close race may lie ahead. Brown isn't in a commanding position, while Warren is within striking distance. One early February poll showed Warren with a slight lead, for example.

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