There's no doubt it's easier to win an open Senate seat than to knock off an incumbent. But if you take a deeper look at the numbers from our Missouri poll this week, and compare them to how Robin Carnahan was polling against Kit Bond before he announced his retirement, I'm not sure it really makes that big of a difference.
When we polled Carnahan against Bond in July, she trailed him by two points. When Daily Kos did it in December, she had a four point deficit. Both of those results were within the margin of error, as were the numbers we got when we pitted Carnahan against Roy Blunt and Jim Talent last weekend.
When you look at the approval/favorability ratings for Bond pre-retirement and compare them particularly to Talent, there's not a big difference. In July we found Bond at a +6 net approval, in August it was +1, and in December Kos put it at +6. Average them and that's +4 for Bond. By comparison our poll this week found that Talent, with a similar level of name recognition, is at +6. The less well known Sarah Steelman is at +7. Only Blunt has a significantly worse favorability mark, at -3.
So really, it appears that if Jim Talent or even Roy Blunt were to end up as the Republican nominee they would start in a relatively similar position to where Bond would have been. The retirement is good news for Democrats in the sense that someone like a Robin Carnahan might be more likely to put her hat in the ring now that it's an open seat, but ultimately what I think would have been a highly competitive and close race in 2010 will still be a highly competitive and close race in 2010- just with a different cast of characters.