The latest Rasmussen poll, conducted July 21, puts the Schaffer/Udall race back with the margin of error, where it had been for most of the race until the last six weeks or so. With Udall leading 47-43, and a MOE of +/-4.5%, this is essentially a tie, with just a 3 point difference (49-46) when "leaners" are factored in.
More importantly for Schaffer is the favorability/unfavorability rating, with both candidates at 54% (Schaffer has a 2% lead in the "very favorable" category). Three months of dedicated partisan attacks on Schaffer appear to have given Udall a temporary "bump" in the polls, but haven't appeared to hurt Schaffer's ratings otherwise, and with the poll conducted July 21, could have factored in a full week of reports in the blogosphere and even the MSM that favored Schaffer over Udall in the first debate of the campaign season. Many partisan Dems, including the DSCC, have tried to spin the first debate as at best a Udall victory, and at worst a draw. They claim that one of Schaffer's best salvos of the debate was nothing more than misinformation, and that this hurts Schaffer's credibility.
Unfortunately for Udall, it was his debate rhetoric about "working together" that fell flat on its face.
This new poll comes on the heels of the CQ Politics reassignment of the race to "leans Democratic" from "no clear favorite"--a "lagging indicator" of recent polls or a general reflection of a switch in expected outcome (SvU suspects the former)? This conflicts with the Cook Political Report out last week that still puts the race as a "toss up."
July polls are July polls. This election year that will be even more the case, especially with the DNC in Udall's back yard. Negative backlash from the convention, due to the events themselves (Hillary party crashing, Obama flub, etc.) or outside in the streets, could damage the Udall move to the center and solidify the "liberal" appellation that he has correctly been tagged with (Boulder liberal, Colorado liberal). He needs a virtually flawless DNC to escape with his independent/unaffiliated support undamaged.
What does Schaffer need? Continued debate success, in both style (clear winner last week) and substance (each side claimed victory). One thing is clear, Schaffer's supporters were clearly more fired up than Udall's, which may be a product of Udall's recent lead (confident supporters feel less afraid of loss). An increase in ad buys and presence in the media (not merely Udall and surrogate attack ads) will increase his visibility, and more highlights from future debates should play well in charging up Republicans seeking down-ticket rally points, since Sen. John McCain won't provide much in the way of coattails. Gas prices stalled at record levels and the expected vote over the Congressional moratorium on offshore drilling in October--the Executive ban having been lifted by President Bush last Monday--could cripple a Udall juggernaut.
Exit questions--with a smidge more than 3 months to go, what do you think of the polls? Will the DNC damage Udall? Can Schaffer reverse the GOP's recent electoral woes?
**Update--a report from a commenter at SquareState doesn't bode well for Udall, with only "lukewarm" support for the Democrat in Boulder