SurveyUSA for Axiom Strategies (1/21-24, registered voters, no trendlines):
Claire McCaskill (D-inc): 48
Sam Graves (R): 44
I think this is the first SurveyUSA poll of the 2012 cycle, and it seems consistent with the few other polls we’ve seen so far in the Show Me State: Claire McCaskill is below 50% in the danger zone but with a small lead against a non-Jim Talent candidate. In this case, it’s Sam Graves, the MO-06 Rep. and potential Senate candidate who has suddenly started to throw his weight around in this race with the Jim Talent decision not to seek a rematch. They find McCaskill with a 48/45 approval (no comparable numbers for Graves).
Worth noting: this poll wasn’t commissioned by a media outlet, but by the Republican consulting firm Axiom Strategies. From Tricia Miller’s description, it sounds like they polled other general election matchups and the GOP primary as well, but only released the Graves numbers, saying that Graves tested the best against McCaskill. (The Roll Call article also gets fellow Reps. Todd Akin and Blaine Leutkemeyer on the record as saying they won’t run, so now all the non-frosh GOP Reps. in the state are accounted for.)
As far as how we know that Jim Talent isn’t going to run, well, we have word from the horse’s mouth. Talent, in fact, publicly leaked it himself today (which means it really isn’t that much of a leak, doesn’t it?), telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that tomorrow he would make an official announcement that he wouldn’t run. As expected, Talent confirmed that he’s going to be focusing on Mitt Romney’s campaign instead.