By Tim Montgomerie
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Nearly 200 Tory activists were in Eastleigh yesterday and successfully delivered a first leaflet drop for Maria Hutchings. One source told me that the party was delighted to have got ahead of the Liberal Democrats who only selected their candidate – a local councillor – yesterday evening.

The race is certainly going to be close. On Friday a poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft found that the Tories were 3% ahead with UKIP in fourth place. A new poll by Survation for today's Mail on Sunday gives the LIb Dems an equally narrow lead and puts UKIP in third place. Its headline numbers are:

  • LD 36% (-10.7% compared to the general election)
  • Conservative 33% (-6.3%)
  • UKIP 16% (+12.9%)
  • Labour 13% (+3.8%)
  • Other 2% (+0.6%)

Other findings from the poll:

  • 24% of people in Eastleigh say they'll consider voting UKIP, suggesting Nigel Farage will struggle to avoid his party's vote being squeezed;
  • 86% of Liberal Democrat voters say Chris Huhne's behaviour would make no difference to their vote;
  • 72% said the gay marriage issue would make no difference to their vote with 13% saying it might make them less likely to vote Conservative and 7% answering it will make them more likely to vote Tory;
  • 18% said Cameron's In/Out pledge made them more likely to vote Tory and 13% said it made them less likely to do so.

The by-election will likely be won or lost on who has the best get-out-the-vote operation and whether the Tories are more successful at squeezing UKIP or the LIbDems are more effective at squeezing Labour.

More from Survation here.