Sarah Steelman is the early top choice of Missouri Republicans to be their candidate for the Senate next year, although with most of the candidates including herself largely unknown at this point there is plenty of time for that to change.
31% of GOP primary voters say they'd like Steelman to be their nominee to 24% for Todd Akin, 9% for Ed Martin, and just 2% for Ann Wagner. If you take Akin out of the mix Steelman's support expands to 37% compared with 18% for Martin and 11% for Wagner.
We're not seeing any big ideological fissures yet in these numbers. Steelman leads Akin by 14 points with moderates but she also has a 13 point advantage with those voters describing themselves as 'very conservative.' Her lead is narrower with 'somewhat conservative' voters who give her only a one point edge on Akin. It's a similar story when Akin's out- then Steelman's up 26 points on Martin with the 'very conservative' wing and 24 points with the moderates, but only 9 points with folks who call themselves 'somewhat conservative.' For whatever reason she's doing better with moderates and the far right than the center right.
It's too early to make a whole lot of these numbers though given that 56% of voters don't know enough about Steelman to have formed an opinion and that just rises to 61% for Akin, 75% for Martin, and 81% for Wagner.
There's a little more clarity with the Presidential primary in the state. Mike Huckabee has the lead with 29% to 19% for Newt Gingrich, 14% for Sarah Palin, 13% for Mitt Romney, 7% for Ron Paul, 4% for Mitch Daniels, 3% for Tim Pawlenty, and 2% for Haley Barbour.
One thing these numbers do reinforce is the recent ABC/Washington Post poll that showed Palin's numbers plummeting even with Republican voters. When we polled Missouri in December Palin was at 25%, so her 14% now represents an 11 point drop in her standing over the last three months. Also while the other GOP frontrunners have seen modest drops in their net favorability since our previous Missouri Republican poll- 5 points for Romney, 3 for Gingrich, and 2 for Huckabee- Palin has seen a much more dramatic 16 point decline from +52 in December at 72/20 to now +36 at 63/27. There's no doubt that the already limited interest in a Presidential bid from her that Republican voters had is declining even further.
The other thing that's striking in these numbers is how weak Romney is. In 2008 Huckabee got 32% here and his current 29% standing doesn't represent much difference. But Romney pulled 29% here last time around and his 13% now means he's lost more than half of his support. His albatross here, as we're seeing in more and more of our GOP polling, is voters describing themselves as 'very conservative.' They're the largest segment of the Republican electorate in Missouri at 41%, and only 10% of them want Romney as their candidate next year. His favorability numbers with those folks are only narrowly above water at 46/34. Compare that to 80% for Huckabee, 79% for Palin, and 61% for Gingrich. He can't win the nomination if his standing doesn't vastly improve with those folks.
Full results here