Sarah Steelman is apparently headed to Washington this week to try to round up support for a 2010 Missouri Senate bid.
When you look at our poll from a couple weeks ago, she might seem like a strong candidate. Her +7 net favorability ratio was better than the other potential Republican candidates. Jim Talent's was +6 and Roy Blunt's came in at -3.
The problem for Steelman, at least as far as securing the Republican nomination goes, is that her numbers are better because she does better with Democrats than Talent and Blunt do. But she's the least popular of the trio within her own party. Talent is the potential candidate viewed most favorably by Republican voters, with 78% having a positive opinion of him and 14% rating him negatively. For Blunt the breakdown is 70/17. Steelman's is 51/18. In other words, she has the most Republicans holding an unfavorable opinion of her, while her favorables run 19 points behind Blunt and 27 points behind Talent. That doesn't bode very well for her chances if she decides to make a run but can't clear the field.
We found a similar trend when we tested both Steelman and Kenny Hulshof against Jay Nixon back in July. Steelman only trailed Nixon by 5 points, while Hulshof had a 10 point deficit. But if you looked deeper into the numbers, Hulshof was getting 71% of the GOP vote against Nixon while Steelman was polling at just 63%. Steelman polled better than Hulshof against Nixon because she had a stronger performance among Democrats and independents, but that obviously wasn't enough to get her out of the primary last year and our numbers indicate she could have the same problem again next year if there are multiple top tier Republican candidates. That crossover support she enjoys is nice, but she needs to win a nomination before it does much for her.