Since shortly after the polls closed in November, the conventional wisdom has been that the Republican Party, having largely chipped away the Democratic Senate majority, would reclaim that majority in 2012. The class of 2006 was almost exclusively Democratic, the logic went, and thus was a target-rich environment for the GOP. Furthermore, Democratic targets out of the GOP class were slim-to-none.
Not so fast, perhaps:
A new Utah Policy poll shows Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, could be fighting off Republicans and Democrats in 2012.
University of Utah political scientist Tim Chambless says Hatch will fight an uphill battle because of age, health and distrust of incumbents.
"There is a possibility that Senator Hatch, the incumbent, would be challenged from within his own party and would be vulnerable to the same fate as Senator Bob Bennett," Chambless said.
* * * * * *
The Utah Policy poll...has some interesting numbers on a hypothetical Hatch race against Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson in the general election, with Hatch winning by a 48 percent to 41 percent margin.
The poll also found that Hatch would get thumped in a GOP battle against former Governor Jon Huntsman and current Congressman Jason Chaffetz. Hatch draws support from just 21 percent of Republicans, barely behind Chaffetz (23 percent), but miles behind Huntsman (48 percent).
Of course, Huntsman hasn't indicated that he'll be making a bid. Chaffetz seems the likelier bet to run. Either would probably make the odds for a Democratic upset in one of the reddest states in the Union more remote, depending on how bruising the convention fight might be.
This poll comes right on the heels of a new poll out of New Jersey by Fairleigh Dickinson. That poll showed freshman Senator Robert Menendez, once the target of a recall movement and considered vulnerable, with a double-digit lead over all Republican comers. Predictably, state Senator Tom Kean Jr. comes the closest, but even he trails by 10 points (44-34). Newly elected Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno trails even further, down nearly two-to-one (47-26) to the freshman Democrat.