Republicans start out with the advantage for the open Senate seat in Texas being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison's retirement but prospective Democratic candidates are within close enough striking distance that an upset is possible if the breaks all go their way.
David Dewhurst is the strongest candidate at this point. He's the only one with greater than 50% name recognition and he leads all the Democrats we tested- it's a 4 point advantage over actor Tommy Lee Jones at 43-39, a 6 point one over former Comptroller John Sharp at 43-37, and an 8 point edge over former general Ricardo Sanchez at 45-37.
Tommy Lee Jones for Senate? We included him in the poll because there is a movement drafting him to run. He actually has a better favorability rating, at 28/14, than any of the candidates more likely to make the race. He has the sort of bipartisan appeal a Democrat would need to win statewide in Texas, with Republicans giving him a 25/12 favorability spread and independents a particularly good 35/12 one. He polls the best of any Democrat not just against Dewhurst but also against GOP hopefuls Ted Cruz and Tom Leppert. A Jones candidacy is probably a pipe dream for Democrats but the numbers do suggest he would have the potential to be a strong nominee.
After Dewhurst the strongest of the Republicans we tested is Ted Cruz. He trail Jones 38-37 but leads more likely Democratic candidates Sharp 40-36 and Sanchez 41-32. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert would start out basically in a toss up situation with the Democrats, leading Jones and Sharp each by a point at 38-37 and 39-38 respectively and holding a 3 point advantage over Sanchez at 38-35.
There are a lot of undecideds in each of those match ups and that reflects the fact that this just isn't a particularly well known candidate field at this point. Dewhurst has 55% name recognition, Sharp's is 39%, Sanchez's 33%, Leppert's 32%, and Cruz's is only 25%. This race has a lot of potential to swing strongly in one direction or another as voters become more familiar with the candidates.
Republicans start out with the advantage here no doubt. But keep in mind that John Cornyn only got reelected by 12 points in 2008 even with an opponent who was not terribly well funded. A better funded Democrat in an open seat situation may have a chance next year.
Full results here