Barbara Boxer has the kind of approval numbers that usually result in a politician not winning reelection. But in a Democratic state and with competition that is less than stellar she still leads all of her opponents for reelection by 3-7 points.
Just 37% of California voters like the job Boxer is doing as their Senator while 46% disapprove. Her numbers with independents are dreadful at a 24/50 approval spread, and Republicans are much more unified in their disapproval of her (89%) than Democrats are in their approval of her (67%).
Nevertheless Boxer leads Carly Fiorina 45-42, Chuck DeVore 46-40, and Tom Campbell 47-40. Boxer may not be all that popular but neither is her opposition. 22% of voters have a favorable opinion of Fiorina to 30% with an unfavorable one. Campbell and DeVore are mostly unknown. 67% of voters have no opinion about Campbell to 15% with a positive one and 18% with a negative one. DeVore is even more obscure, as 76% of voters have no opinion about him with 10% seeing favorably and 14% unfavorably.
Boxer trails by 7-10 points with independents against all 3 Republicans, and they all win a higher degree of Democratic support than Boxer does of Republican support. But there are a whole lot more Democrats than Republicans in the state and because of that Boxer still holds onto the lead.
Part of the tenuousness of Boxer's status is that Barack Obama has seen a pretty significant drop in popularity in the state. 49% of voters approve of the job he's doing to 42% disapproving. Those numbers are still pretty solid, but they are a good deal below his performance at the polls in the state in November 2008 and most people who have soured on Obama aren't going to be inclined to vote for Boxer this year.
Boxer always looks vulnerable early in the cycle but has ended up being reelected by healthy margins in both 1998 and 2004. Once again it looks like she could be in a tough fight for reelection but if her opponent (likely Carly Fiorina) doesn't hold up well to the pressures of a statewide campaign or if the President's popularity in the state goes back up she may do just fine once again.
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