A look at 12 different possible head to head match ups for next year's Texas Senate race shows the same outcome in every single one: a double digit lead for the Republican. This is going to be an extremely difficult seat for Democrats to pick up.
The field for the Senate race is still developing and with handfuls of people considering the race we couldn't test every match up imaginable but we picked four Republicans (David Dewhurst, Elizabeth Ames Jones, Tom Leppert, and Michael Williams) and three Democrats (John Sharp, Chet Edwards, and Julian Castro) to look at in this initial poll.
Dewhurst polls the strongest of everyone we looked at with an average lead of 22 points over the three Democrats- 18 over Sharp, 19 over Edwards, and 28 over Castro. Leppert does next best with an average lead of 17 points- 12 over Sharp, 16 over Edwards, and 23 over Castro. Jones has a 16 point average lead- 13 over Edwards, 14 over Sharp, and 21 over Castro. And Williams has a 14 point average lead- 11 over Edwards, 12 over Sharp, and 19 over Castro. Edwards and Sharp's electability is basically impossible to differentiate, but they do both begin in a stronger position than Castro.
Texas is obviously a strongly Republican state- for a Democrat to win would take a strong advantage with independents and the ability to win over a healthy number of GOP voters while losing very few Democrats. None of those conditions are present at this very early stage- the Republican candidate leads with independents in all 12 match ups we tested and the Republicans are all winning a larger share of their party vote than the Democrats are of theirs.
One important thing to note is that almost all of these potential contenders are pretty much unknowns to the statewide electorate at this point. Only Dewhurst, who 62% of voters have an opinion about, surpasses 50% in name recognition. 54% of voters don't know enough about Edwards to have formed an opinion about him and that rises steadily to 58% for Sharp, 63% for Leppert, 65% for Castro, and 72% for Williams and Jones. If there's a ray of hope for Democrats it's that they'll get a candidate into the race who's currently not very well known but who really catches fire and somehow proves to be more appealing to voters than the eventual Republican nominee.
Democrats' best chance might be if a large and fractured Republican primary field results in a very weak GOP nominee- the Sharron Angle plan so to speak. That's less likely to happen in a runoff state than in others but the relatively low name recognition for most of the GOP contenders means there's not really an overwhelming front runner- that makes the field pretty wide open and those are the sorts of conditions that can result in a less electable person emerging from the nomination process.
All that said at this point Republicans look like they'll be overwhelmingly favored to hold onto this seat and the real action in this race might be in the late winter/early spring of 2012 instead of the fall.
Full results here