Jay Nixon continues to hold a modest lead over Peter Kinder in his quest for reelection as Governor of Missouri- it's a 45/38 spread this month.
Nixon has well above average approval numbers for a Governor in our polling, with 47% of voters happy with the job he's doing to 31% who express disapproval of him. Nixon's numbers have an unusual pattern by party. Only 60% of Democrats like what he's doing while 24% disapprove. That's a tepid level of support from within his own party. But he has almost as many Republicans- 32%- who approve of his performance as there are- 40%- who are unhappy. It's rare to see any politician come that close to breaking even across party lines. And he has very solid numbers with independents as well at a 48/26 spread.
Despite his continued popularity Nixon is unlikely to beat Kinder by anything close to his 20 point margin of victory over Kenny Hulshof in 2008. One of the reasons is that while 32% of Republicans may like what Nixon's doing, only 12% of them actually say they'd be inclined to go so far as to vote for him over Kinder. Our final poll last time around, which hit the margin right on the head, found Nixon taking 17% of the GOP vote.
The biggest reason for Nixon's reduced margin though is that while he does have a small advantage with independents- 37-34- that comes nowhere close to matching his 30+ point margin of victory for them over Hulshof. Independents have moved toward the GOP everywhere across the country the last couple years but that trend has been even more pronounced in Missouri than most other places.
Kinder is mostly unknown to voters across the state right now. 51% say they don't know enough about him to have an opinion and those who do split nearly right down the middle with 25% rating him favorably and 24% unfavorably. Although Kinder's being the Republican nominee next year is treated almost as inevitable, he has only a 38% positive rating with GOP voters so if someone wanted to challenge him and had the ability to run a strong campaign it's unlikely that a primary contest would be a shoo in for Kinder.
The big picture on this race remains the same as the last time we polled it in early December- Nixon is popular and certainly favored for reelection but he's not invincible and he's almost definitely going to have a tougher fight this time around than in 2008.
Full results here