Given that my main job round these parts is a nightly synopsis of the day's polling data, what I am about to say may seem more than a tad strange.
But based on this quite extraordinary finding from PPP's always excellent Tom Jensen, you might be well served to take those November trial heat numbers with a larger grain of salt than usual:
We've polled on 34 non-incumbents running for Senate or Governor since mid-April. 22 of them are unknown to more than 40% of the voters in their states. Only 6 have greater than 70% name recognition and out of those 3 have already served as Governor of their states (Bob Ehrlich, Terry Branstad, Jerry Brown), one is Mayor of the biggest city in the state (John Hickenlooper), one currently represents half the state in Congress (Paul Hodes), and the other, well, he's found ways to increase his name recognition for better or worse (Rand Paul.)
The current standing of a lot of these races is being driven by national trends, for now.
(emphasis was made by Jensen)
Jensen provides the full list of candidates polled, with the percentage of voters who didn't know them yet. There is great news going in both directions.
How much fondness, for example, will Wisconsin voters have for near-certain GOP nominee Ron Johnson? Johnson is unknown to 62% of the electorate. How will those voters react when they learn that Johnson is a man with a financial stake in BP who has advocated drilling, even in the Great Lakes!
Conversely, how will Arizona voters react when they get introduced to Democrat Rodney Glassman? Glassman, despite being unknown to four-in-five voters, has had some halfway decent polling results when paired with both John McCain and J.D. Hayworth thus far. Glassman appears likely to have the resources to wage a serious campaign. Will he be able to close the gap with McCain (or Hayworth) when voters get a chance to know him?
In his piece, Jensen reminds us that if there is anything the 2009-2010 election cycle has taught us, it is that candidates matter:
If the PA-12 and NY-23 special elections had just been determined by the national winds there'd be Republicans in those seats right now- but Democrats proved to have superior candidates and superior campaigns and ended up pulling off a couple good wins. They have to hope that as voters get to know the candidates better in other races across the country this year that the trend continues.
While Jensen, and most observers, have noted throughout the year that there is a lot of cause for concern among Democrats in this cycle, it is also worth noting that the level of fluidity in this cycle, given all the variables at play in this unique election cycle, may well be unprecedented.