If Republicans really stick with Peter Kinder as their candidate for Governor in Missouri it looks like Democratic incumbent Jay Nixon may waltz to reelection. He leads Kinder 50-31 in a hypothetical contest, up from 48-34 the last time PPP polled the race in May.
Kinder's image has taken a hit over the last four months. The last time we polled his favorability was a 24/26 spread. Since then his positive number has dipped 4 points to 20% while his negatives have climbed 7 points to 33%. Most of that decline has been with GOP voters, from a 42/11 breakdown to a 31/20 one. Those numbers suggest that regardless of the party establishment standing behind him Kinder could find himself in a whole lot of trouble if a viable primary alternative emerged.
Nixon continues to be one of the more popular Governors in the country with a 51% approval rating to 30% of voters who disapprove. He still has unusually weak numbers with Democrats (58/21) but that's not a major sign for concern because they generally plan to vote for him whether they actually like him or not. He has stellar numbers with independents at 57/26 and leads Kinder with them by 26 points at 51/25. Even with Republicans he comes close to breaking even at 40/42 approval.
All that said Nixon dodged a bullet when former Senator John Danforth said last week that he wouldn't run. Danforth has a very strong 47/22 favorability spread even years after leaving office and what's most striking about his numbers is the lack of variability along party lines- he's seen favorably by Republicans (49/19), independents (45/20), and Democrats (45/27) at pretty similar levels. He would lead Nixon 45-39 in a head to head, winning over 19% of Democrats and holding a 41-33 advantage with independents. Maybe he would fade after reentering the spotlight but I'm sure Nixon would just as well rather not find out.
We tested a couple of other Republican alternatives to Kinder and although they do better they'd still have a very difficult time knocking off Nixon. Jim Talent would at least keep Nixon to a single digit lead at 47-38. Voters narrowly see Talent favorably by a 36/33 margin. Matt Blunt would trail Nixon by 13 points at 50-37. Missourians haven't warmed back up to Blunt too much since he left office- only 32% see him favorably to 44% with an unfavorable one.
Perhaps the greatest sign of Kinder's weakness is that he does only two points better against Nixon than no name Republican candidate Bill Randles, who trails by 21 points at 45-24. Randles actually does better with independents, at a 21 point deficit compared to Kinder's 26. The only reason Kinder does better overall is that 41% of GOP voters are undecided in the Randles match up compared to 22% in the Kinder one.
If the GOP continues to stand with Peter Kinder there will probably only be one person happier about it than Kinder himself: Nixon.
Full results here