Pence up over Bayh in first Rasmussen poll

In their first look at the Senate seat currently held by Indiana’s Evan Bayh (D), Rasmussen shows Mike Pence as the only Republican who gains an advantage over the incumbent.  Pence bests Bayh by a narrow three points, 47%/44%.  More ominously for Bayh, he doesn’t get above 45% among likely voters with any of the three combinations tested by Rasmussen:

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is another Democratic incumbent who could find himself in a tough reelection battle this fall. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds that Bayh attracts support from just 44% or 45% of voters when matched against his top potential Republican challengers.

Congressman Mike Pence is reportedly considering running against Bayh. At this time, he attracts 47% of the vote while Bayh picks up 44%.

A former Republican congressman, John Hostettler, has already indicated he will challenge Bayh. In that match-up, it’s Bayh with a three-point edge, 44% to 41%.

Freshman State Senator Marlin Stutzman has announced that he is in the race. He trails the incumbent by 12 points, 45% to 33%.

In rough terms, it’s a statistical tie on the toplines between Pence, Hostettler, and Bayh.  In the two different combinations, they all wind up within the margin of error with each other.  The fact that Bayh can’t get above 45% against any Republican shows that he is vulnerable to any serious challenger in November.

The key for Republicans will probably be who can attract the most independents to the ticket.  Hostettler loses to Bayh among unaffiliated voters, 41/34.  Pence not only edges Bayh among independents 42/40, he leaves fewer independents undecided, 14% to Hostettler’s 21%.  Also, Pence gets more support from Republicans (80% to 69%), does relatively better with women (42% to 36%), and with younger voters (46/34 over Bayh, to 42/37 for Hostettler over Bayh).

It will be up to Indiana voters to decide who best represents them in the race against Bayh.  From this preliminary poll, though, it seems that Pence’s higher profile will be tougher for Bayh to beat — and that Bayh is in serious danger of losing his red-state seat in November.

Update: I had “Bayh” in one spot where I meant “Pence,” now corrected.