Debbie Stabenow starts her race for reelection against Pete Hoekstra in a pretty good position, leading 50-41. That's similar to where she stood the last time PPP polled Michigan in March. At that time her advantage over Hoekstra was 50-38.
The key for Stabenow is that she has Democrats lined up almost 100% behind her. She leads Hoekstra 90-4 with voters of her own party. In a Presidential year in Michigan there are going to be a lot more Democrats voting than Republicans. That means for a Republican to win statewide requires some combination of meaningful crossover support from Democratic voters and a large victory with independents. Hoekstra actually does lead Stabenow 44-38 with independents but he needs a much wider advantage than that if he's only going to get 4% of the Democratic vote. Stabenow's winning 8% of Republicans to that 4% Hoekstra's getting from Democrats- it would be impossible for a GOP candidate who lost more Republicans than they won Democrats to win in Michigan.
Stabenow's approval ratings are about average for a Senator right now- 46% of voters like the job she's doing to 40% who disapprove. That's pretty much identical to our March poll when it was 46/39 and up a little bit from our December poll when it stood at 41/40. Stabenow does poorly with independents (37/47) but she's got more Republicans (15%) who like her than there are Democrats (12%) who dislike her.
There are other Republicans running but none of them are as competitive with Stabenow as Hoekstra- Randy Hekman trails by 16 points at 52-36, John McCulloch is down 20 at 52-32, and Peter Konetchy is down 21 at 52-31. None of that trio of Republicans hopefuls has greater than 23% name recognition. Hoekstra is a blank slate to many voters as well, with 39% holding no opinion about him. Those who do split pretty evenly in their assessments with 31% rating him favorably to 30% who have a negative view of him.
Hoekstra's decision to run certainly gives Republicans a credible candidate in this race. But he's still a long shot and if he wins it's likely going to be the product of a Republican landslide year that results in the party coming away with something in the neighborhood of 55 Senate seats. Think about it this way- Stabenow is stronger in the state than Barack Obama is. Obama won Michigan by 16 points in 2008- he would probably need to shift about 20 points in the wrong direction, losing the state by 4-6 points, to pull Stabenow down with him. Obama's numbers aren't very good right now but they haven't plummeted to that point.
Full results here