Sarah Steelman's going to have an up hill battle to win the Republican Senate nomination in Missouri if Jim Talent decides to make the race. A PPP poll of GOP voters in the state conducted last week found 53% would like Talent to be their nominee against Claire McCaskill while 26% said Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (more likely to run for Governor) would be their first choice and only 17% picked Steelman.
Part of the reason for Talent's initial advantage is name recognition. 68% of Republican primary voters know enough about him to have an opinion, while only 38% have one about Steelman. With folks who know Steelman- whether they like her or not- Talent's advantage over her is only 40-28. Those numbers suggest that once Steelman becomes better known the margin between her and Talent will tighten.
Talent is overwhelmingly well liked by the GOP electorate with 55% of voters having a favorable opinion of him to only 13% with an unfavorable one. Noteworthy within his numbers is that he's actually slightly more popular with conservatives at this point (57/11) than he is with moderates (49/18). If Steelman's goal is to provide an alternative to Talent from the right she's going to have a lot of work to do to convince conservatives who currently like him that she'd be a better choice.
All of that said if there's one thing we learned from this year's Republican primary season it's that the nature of these races can change very fast and that someone who once seemed out of the running can catch a head of steam even in just the final month of an election and come out on top. So Steelman has plenty of room to grow and time to gain on Talent.
When it comes to the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination picture in Missouri Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin are out ahead of the pack with 27% and 25% respectively. Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are a good deal back with 15% and 14%, followed by Ron Paul at 5%, Tim Pawlenty at 3%, John Thune at 2%, and Mitch Daniels at 1%.
Only 47% of Republican primary voters in Missouri have a favorable opinion of Romney, well below the 76% who like Huckabee, 72% who like Palin, and even the 57% who see Gingrich positively. Romney's poor performance is symbolic of an emerging trend in our 2012 polling- he tends to be a lot stronger in states that Barack Obama won in 2008 than he is in ones that went for John McCain. That's a double edged sword for him- he's frequently putting up general election numbers that make him look like the the most formidable nominee the Republicans could put forward. But at the same time his path to getting that nomination looks difficult with red state Republicans much less enthusiastic about Romney than the other folks in the game.
Continuing a trend we pointed out in Montana on Friday, Huckabee leads Palin 32-26 with women while Palin is up 24-22 on him with men. That's something we're seeing in a lot of states.
Full results here