Voters in Michigan are pretty evenly divided in their assessments of Debbie Stabenow's job performance and she could be vulnerable in 2012 if Republicans put forward a strong challenger.
41% of Michigan voters approve of the job Stabenow's doing while 40% disapprove. Her numbers are pretty much completely polarized along party lines. 71% of Democrats approve and only 10% disapprove of her. With Republicans those numbers are nearly reversed with 73% disapproving and only 11% approving of her. Putting her on slightly positive ground overall are independents, 43% of whom give her good marks to 36% who disapprove.
Tested against a bevy of hypothetical Republican opponents Stabenow leads every match up, but in some of the cases it's very close. She's up 45-44 on Congressman and Gubernatorial loser Pete Hoekstra, 43-41 against Congresswoman and former Secretary of State Candice Miller, and 45-41 against current Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. Stabenow benefits from a broader lead against former Governor John Engler, who she's on top of 49-42, and businessman Tim Leuliette who has perhaps shown the most public interest in running so far and trails Stabenow 47-30.
Stabenow's position looks a lot more perilous than Barack Obama's did in numbers released yesterday. The main reason for that is the quality of the opponents- Michigan voters don't necessarily like these potential challengers to Stabenow but with the exception of Engler they at least don't strongly dislike them, which is a contrast to the dim reviews they gave the GOP Presidential field. Asked to rate Hoekstra, Miller, Land, and Leuliette the primary response of voters is ambivalence- 41% don't know enough about Hoekstra to have an opinion, 43% say the same when it comes to Miller and Land, and that number rises to 81% for Leuliette.
Engler is easily the best known of these hypothetical Republican candidates, but voters in the state don't much care for him anymore with only 33% holding a favorable opinion of him to 45% with an unfavorable one. Democrats (66%) are stronger in their dislike of him than Republicans (54%) are in their affection for him and independents split against him by a 28/50 margin as well. This is a case much like Wisconsin for the 2010 cycle where it might seem like getting a once popular former Governor to run would be a good thing for Republicans but in reality they might be better off with a fresher face.
Michigan voters are not dying to get rid of Stabenow and usually when that's the case a Senator will get reelected. Stabenow should be aided in particular by having Barack Obama back at the top of the ticket to drive Democratic turnout. But if Republicans get a strong candidate this has the potential to be a very close race.
Full results here