PPP's first Montana Senate poll since Steve Daines officially got into the race finds him starting out with pretty substantial leads for both the general and primary elections. Daines leads Democratic challengers John Bohlinger and John Walsh by spreads of 51/36 and 52/35 respectively. He also has a 66/7 lead in the primary over Champ Edmunds.
Daines' leads aren't a function of his being particularly popular. He has a 37/42 approval spread, down a net 13 points from June when he was at 41/33. It does appear anger over the shutdown has had some effect on his image. But the number that may be most important to the US Senate race at this point is 34. That's Barack Obama's approval rating in the state, with 63% of voters disapproving of him. Only 31% of voters in the state support the Affordable Care Act to 58% opposed, and just 14% think the rollout of the ACA has been a success to 82% who think it's been unsuccessful. 63% rate it as being 'very unsuccessful.' All of that is making it a tough start to the race for Democrats.
Daines has his large early leads because he gets 87-90% of the Republican vote, compared to only 75-76% of the Democratic vote for Bohlinger and Walsh. Daines is also up by 13-14 points with independents. If there's any silver lining for Democrats it's that a lot more of their voters are undecided, but with Daines over 50% it's looking like a climb.
John Walsh is starting out with the lead in the Democratic primary. He's at 39% to 31% for John Bohlinger and just 3% for Dirk Adams. Walsh's lead is wider among voters describing themselves as 'very liberal' (53/29) while he has single digit advantages with those who identify as 'somewhat liberal' or moderate.
Stapleton is the nominal early favorite among Republican primary voters, getting 32% to 20% for Johnson, and 9% each for Rosendale and Zinke. With 31% of voters still undecided there's a long way to go on that primary.
After frustrating losses last year for Governor and the Senate, things are looking up now for Montana Republicans headed into 2014.
Full results here