Yesterday, Harry Reid received his best public polling numbers of the cycle in a new poll from DailyKos/Research2000. Not only is he leading in general election matchups against all three major Republican nominee contenders, but the weakest Republican candidate in the general election (Sharron Angle) leads the Republican primary field in both the DailyKos poll and another survey also released yesterday by Suffolk University. Still, I would like to throw some caution to the wind about the Republican primary and note a couple of key factors we should keep in mind.
1. Nevada's population grew by 32.3% from 2000 to 2009. Primary polling is notoriously challenging (see Tuesday's Alabama Democratic Gubernatorial primary) mostly because nailing down the likely voter population is very difficult. Pollsters try to model likely primary voters based on past history, and Nevada's population growth makes this task all the more difficult.
2. Multi-candidate primaries without an incumbent have produced some surprises so far this year. The Nevada race features three major non-incumbent candidates: Sharron Angle, Sue Lowden, and Danny Tarkanian. The second biggest surprise in Alabama on Tuesday was the strong showing of Robert Bentley in the Republican Gubernatorial primary. He had never registered higher than 10% in a poll, but, pending a recount, finds himself in a runoff with Bradley Byrne. We saw a similarly "strong" performance in Illinois by now Republican nominee for governor Bill Brady.
3. Nevada Republicans like Danny Tarkanian more than any other candidate for Senate. While most analysts have focused on the rise of Angle and fall of Lowden, Tarkanian remains very much in this ball game. It is true that his numbers have flat-lined in the mid 20's, but they also have not fallen. With Lowden's numbers dropping rapidly, she has turned her attention to attacking Angle. The candidate not involved in these attacks is often the one most helped by them.
With all this in mind, I believe it is fair to say that we do know that Sue Lowden is in major trouble. Her horse race trend is ominous, and her net favorable ratings are worst of the three main contenders.
But as they say, the only poll that counts is the one on Tuesday.