MO-Sen: PPP Finds Paper-Thin Margins for McCaskill

Public Policy Polling (PDF) (11/29-12/1, Missouri voters, no trendlines):

Claire McCaskill (D): 45

Sarah Steelman (R): 44

Undecided: 12

Claire McCaskill (D): 45

Jim Talent (R): 47

Undecided: 8

Claire McCaskill (D): 44

Peter Kinder (R): 46

Undecided: 10

(MoE: ±4.3%)

With Sarah Steelman’s surprise announcement today already declaring her candidacy for the 2012 Senate race, PPP rushed out some numbers for the race (apparently cutting their sample a little short — note that the sample period extends as far as today!). In a state that’s polarized deeply between urban and rural voters and has become accustomed to extremely close races — this was the narrowest Obama/McCain margin of any state, and Claire McCaskill’s 2006 defeat of Jim Talent was by only 2% — it looks like we’re on track for yet another close one. McCaskill has a statistically insignificant lead over Steelman and a similar deficit against Talent (and also against Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who is pretty well committed to the gubernatorial race at this point).

The innards show pretty much what you’d expect in this light-red and deeply-split state: McCaskill’s popularity is pretty middling (43/44, with 77% of Dems approving and 77% of GOPers disapproving), though better than Barack Obama’s (43/52). The main problem for the GOPers is that they aren’t especially well-known and are basically functioning as Generic Rs (even ex-Sen. Talent, who may not have made much of an impression in his initial four years). Talent is at 36/32, while Steelman is 59% unknown at 22/19. McCaskill should feel lucky she’s running in 2012, a presidential year when turnout by casual Dem voters is likely to be high, instead of having had to run in 2010.

MO-Sen: Steelman’s In

After a few days of suddenly ramped-up chatter about Sarah Steelman getting in the Senate race, all of a sudden, she’s officially in:

Before filing as a candidate with the Secretary of the Senate this afternoon, Steelman will launch a campaign website this morning that outlines her decision to become the first Republican in the race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

“I want to do my part in fighting for America’s future. That’s why I have decided to run for the United States Senate,” Steelman writes on the homepage of her revamped website,

Steelman’s entry complicates matters greatly for Jim Talent, who’d been expected to seek a rematch against Claire McCaskill (who beat him in 2006) but now must go into a GOP primary flying the establishment flag against a challenger with a cadre of tea-party supporters. Steelman, of course, played the same role in the 2008 gubernatorial primary, badly damaging then-Rep. Kenny Hulshof en route to his wide loss in the general; she had also briefly considered running in 2010 against Roy Blunt in the GOP primary. Yesterday she got some assurances from the NRSC that they wouldn’t take sides in a Talent/Steelman primary, and (unlike 2010, where Blunt’s early entry seemed to drive her off) that was apparently enough for her to jump in quickly before Talent (who says he’ll have a decision in coming months) could get entrenched.