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Former Massachusetts Senator Brown trailing in New Hampshire Senate race: poll

BOSTON (Reuters) - Republican Scott Brown, who won the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by Democrat Edward M. Kennedy, is trailing Jeanne Shaheen in a U.S. Senate race in neighboring New Hampshire, according to a poll released on Thursday.

A Boston Herald/Suffolk University poll of 800 likely New Hampshire voters in the November election found 49 percent support for Democrat Shaheen with 39 percent supporting Brown. That is a slightly narrower lead than Shaheen, a former governor of the state, held in earlier polls.

Brown carried a strong lead heading into the September Republican primary, with the support of 40 percent of likely primary voters polled from Sunday to Wednesday, well ahead of second-place Bob Smith, who had 12 percent support.

Smith is a conservative Republican who is seeking to reclaim the U.S. Senate seat he held from 1990 to 2003.

Brown was to appear in his first televised debate with Republican rivals over the weekend.

Brown was a little-known Massachusetts state legislator when he stunned that state's Democratic establishment in 2010 by defeating Attorney General Martha Coakley to win the U.S. Senate seat Kennedy had held for a half-century.

But he lost to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in his first re-election bid in 2012 and late last year moved back to his native New Hampshire, which borders Massachusetts, to prepare for a Senate run.

He has focused his campaign on attacking U.S. President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform law and trying to tie Shaheen to the administration. Shaheen has sought to portray Brown as detached from the needs of the largely rural state and too closely tied to powerful business interests.

The poll also showed New Hampshire voters narrowly disliking the law, known as Obamacare, with 48 percent viewing the law unfavorably compared with 42 percent who viewed it favorably.

The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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