A new poll and an endorsement by the state’s congressional delegation stirred up more partisan squabbling Tuesday in the 5th congressional district race, where two moderate candidates are striving differentiate themselves for voters. 

The poll commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee found to little surprise that Democrat Elizabeth Esty is leading Republican Andrew Roraback by nine points.

Forty-four percent of likely voters said they would vote for Esty if the election was held today, whereas 35 percent said they would vote for Roraback.

The poll was conducted between Aug. 21 and 23 and consisted of 402 randomly selected likely voters in the 5th district. It has a 4.9 percent margin of error, according to a memo from the Global Strategy Group.

The poll also found that voters are more inclined to vote for a generic Democrat than Esty. Given the choice between a generic Democrat and a generic Republican, voters picked the Democrat 48 to 38 percent.

When voters were read positive profiles of both Esty and Roraback, Esty’s lead widened to 15 points with voters choosing her 53 to 38 percent.

Click here to read the profiles.

In a press release, Stephen Carter, regional spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the poll proves voters are responding to Esty’s message.

“While Elizabeth Esty proves to voters she is an independent leader who will stand up for the middle class, Connecticut voters are rejecting Andrew Roraback for standing with the Republican Party that would ask seniors to pay more for health care in order to give tax breaks to millionaires and Big Oil companies,” Carter said. “Andrew Roraback’s extremism is wrong for Connecticut’s seniors and middle class and he can’t be trusted as a moderate voice in Congress.”

In a statement Roraback called the poll “laughably partisan” and said it was nothing more than a political gimmick.

“But what may be a concern for Esty is that the DCCC’s own poll shows an unnamed ‘generic Democrat’ beating Esty by 48 to 44 percent. In other words, the people polled preferred an unnamed candidate they don’t even know over Elizabeth Esty,” Roraback said.

The poll comes as the candidates, both of whom are considered moderates, struggle to define themselves to voters and paint their opponent as a party extremist.

Esty was formally endorsed by members of Connecticut’s universally Democratic congressional delegation Tuesday at state Democrats’ headquarters in Hartford. As members spoke in support of Esty they reaffirmed her moderate record from her one term as a lawmaker.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes said Esty’s beliefs coincide with fundamental Democratic values like the importance of a strong education system and investments in infrastructure, but he said she’s someone who makes her own decisions.

“We need Elizabeth Esty in this delegation to continue that tradition of not coming to the floor of the House of Representatives and saying, ‘How are we voting on this one?’ But coming on to the floor of the House of Representatives and having thought through the issues, like the very intelligent woman that she is, and making a decision that is not necessarily consistent with what we all believe or what the Democratic party believes, but what is best for her constituents and the future of this country,” Himes said.

But when they were differentiating their candidate from Roraback, the delegates seemed to be campaigning against the national Republicans more so than Roraback himself. Without mentioning his name, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said Roraback will have to fall in line with Republicans in Washington if he is elected.

“He will have to tow the line. That is what the standing order is in the House of Representatives. And you know, it’s a Romney/Ryan/Roraback budget—the three ‘R’s’—but it’s not reading, writing, and arithmetic because they are about to destroy reading, writing, and arithmetic for most of our children,” DeLauro said.

Esty herself also aligned Roraback with House Republicans.

“I have to say, Andrew Roraback, who’s a nice guy, I like him, but Andrew Roraback has been very clear he will vote for [House Speaker John] Boehner, to keep him in the speaker’s chair,” Esty said.

Esty’s campaign spokesman Jeb Fain said that to a certain degree they are campaigning against Washington Republicans. It’s a strategy he said was fair given that Roraback has stated he would vote for Boehner. But Fain said voters would begin to see clear distinctions between the two candidates as the campaign progressed.

Meanwhile, the Roraback campaign is using much the same tactic against Esty. Shortly after the Democrats’ press conference, Roraback released a statement calling them “Democrat Monopolists.”

“Today’s show of ‘support’ by Connecticut’s Congressional Democrats is proof positive that we need a different perspective in Washington instead of the lock-step mentality of Democrats who fall all over themselves trying to fall in line behind the big-government policies of President Obama,” Roraback said.

Earlier in the day, Roraback sent an email to his supporters touting his own moderate credentials and citing the Left-leaning political blog Daily Kos.

“Here is what the Daily Kos had to say about me: ‘The GOP nominated the candidate who is unquestionably their strongest choice, state Sen. Andrew Roraback. Roraback’s moderate profile will definitely aid him in this district,’” Roraback quoted.

“If that’s what the liberals have to say about me, I think it puts us on very solid ground! The fact is that 5th District voters do want a moderate who has stood firm against the tax hiking, big-government agenda of Elizabeth Esty and President Obama,” he continued.