Hoosier polls may scare top Dem challengers. UPDATE: Ellsworth running. 

UPDATE: It looks like my thinking was wrong: Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., looks like he's about to take the plunge and run for Senate to succeed Sen. Evan Bayh, D. A moderate, he probably has the best chance of keeping this seat in Democratic hands, but it will still be a tough sell, as the poll below suggests. Meanwhile, they're probably breaking out the champagne today at the NRCC, as Ellsworth's "Bloody Eighth" district has a history of being very competitive.

Earlier post:

Democrats may have dodged a bullet when they avoided having a no-experience challenger seize their Senate nomination by turning in the requisite number of petition signatures. But in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Evan Bayh, D, it still isn't going to be an easy year for them in my home state.

Because no one made the ballot on the Democratic side, a group of 32 insiders will be able to pick a strong Democratic nominee -- or so the logic goes. But the top Indiana Democrats who could be handed the party's Senate nomination may think twice before accepting it when they see this:

The three leading Republican contenders all post leads for now over the two most prominently mentioned Democratic hopefuls, but it’s not even clear if those Democrats are in the race.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Indiana voters shows former GOP Congressman John Hostettler leading Baron Hill 49% to 31% and Brad Ellsworth 46% to 27%.

Former Senator Dan Coats, whose entry in the race has the blessing of the GOP establishment but has angered some Indiana Republicans, runs ahead of Hill 48% to 32% and ahead of Ellsworth 46% to 32%.

Another announced Republican hopeful, freshman state Senator Marlin Stutzman, leads Hill 41% to 33% and Ellsworth by a 40% to 30% margin.

If Democrats give up and go with a second-tier candidate -- in other words, anyone besides Hill or Ellsworth -- then the "fear factor" will disappear from the Republican primary, as it has in Florida. This could possibly erode the advantage of the establishment Republican candidate, former Sen. Dan Coats, R.

On the other hand, Hill is in enough trouble in his own House district that he might find it worth the risk.

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David Freddoso

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David Freddoso came to the Washington Examiner in June 2009, after serving for nearly two years as a Capitol Hill-based staff reporter for National Review Online. Before writing his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama, he spent three years assisting Robert Novak, the legendary Washington... more
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