The poll results we're seeing in a lot of races right now have very little to do with the candidates themselves and everything to do with the political climate. That should provide some hope for Democrats, who in many of these cases appear to have superior candidates that just aren't well known yet.
One of the things that really exemplifies this is that in the last month alone we've polled six races where the Democratic candidate was more personally popular than the Republican candidate with independents, but the GOP one had the edge with those voters anyway.
We saw it in both Wisconsin races this week. Tom Barrett has a +11 favorability spread with independents compared to +6 for Mark Neumann and +3 for Scott Walker. Yet Barrett at this point trails Neumann by 17 with those voters and Walker by 12. In the Senate race independents are split on Tommy Thompson while giving Russ Feingold a +3 favorability number. Nevertheless Thompson leads by 5.
Same thing in the Ohio Senate race. Jennifer Brunner and Rob Portman have identical personal numbers with independents, but Portman leads her by 12 in the horse race. Other races we've seen this trend in lately include the Florida Governor, New Mexico Governor, and the potential Roy Barnes/Nathan Deal match in Georgia Governor.
Right now the national climate is dictating these numbers more than the candidates themselves. But candidates do matter and these races could be reshaped come the fall once voters become more personally familiar with their choices.