Here are a couple unorganized thoughts. First, of the listed candidates, Rehberg is the strongest challenger. My caution with Racicot is he has been away from the scene for 10 years. People and politics change so I think his numbers are a little inflated. By contrast, Rehberg has been in the spotlight for 10 years and people know what he has done, both good and bad, and those opinions are accurately reflected in the numbers. Obviously, Daines is still a relative unknown and as happened with Tester in his run against Burns, if you win the primary in a contested race the support will come so it is meaningless to look at the head to head now.
Next up, I would take all this with a grain of salt. 2010 was a historic environment for conservatives. Coupled with a Presidential election the electorate will be a bit more balanced in turnout two years from now.
A related counter-point is that PPP typically has a D lean. So there is that.
Finally, with Tester polling below 50% against all opponents, the NRSC is going to put this race in their crosshairs regardless of who wins the Republican primary. The money from the NRSC and national groups will ensure Tester’s numbers stay low (the same thing happened in 2005 with Burns) and give R’s a great shot at picking this one up.
One thing I am sure of is that Montana is going to be flooded with political dollars in 2012. A contested Senate race, open Governor’s race, possible open House race (if Rehberg challenges Tester), and a host of down ballot statewide races (AG, SoS, Auditor). Oh and a Presidential election year. Should be a fun cycle.
As an aside my favorite headline from anywhere goes to Swing State Project;
Right, so ignore that Tester polls sub-50% against all challengers and the fact he failed to crack 50% of the vote 4 years ago, he is still popular. Trust us. Sure guys, sure.