With pundits focused on higher-profile Senate races in the South and West, a new Conservative Intel/Harper Poll shows that Republicans have a very serious pickup opportunity in the Midwest.The early poll of 1,004 likely Michigan voters, conducted January 7th and 8th by Harper Polling, shows Republican former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (at right) leading Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (below), 44 to 36 percent.

Terri Lynn LandAt this early point, with no primaries to speak of and no big media push so far, Land’s lead is probably attributable to her statewide name recognition as a popular former elected official. On the generic Senate ballot, Democrats actually lead in the same race by just over one point — well within the poll’s 3 point margin of error.

Land’s favorable/unfavorable rating is 32% to 18%, compared to Peters’ 18% to 18%. Only 51 percent of those surveyed said they don’t know enough about Land to form an opinion, compared to 64 percent for Peters.

That gives the Democrat more upside potential. Still, the result demonstrates that Republicans should not overlook the opportunity created by the retirement of six-term Sen. Carl Levin, D — the first open-seat Senate race in Michigan since 1994, when Republican Spence Abraham won.

Although Michigan is considered a “Blue” state in presidential races, it has repeatedly elected Republicans to statewide offices in midterm elections.

Michigan voters strongly disapprove of President Obama’s performance — only 35 percent approve and 55 percent disapprove. They are also very sour on Obamacare, with only 33 percent approving and again 55 percent disapproving. However, the sample of likely Michigan voters also voiced approval of Congress continuing extended unemployment benefits, 50 percent to 37 percent disapproving.

Unsurprisingly, Land fares best in this poll within the Republican stronghold of western Michigan, where she once served as Kent County Clerk. She takes 54 percent of the vote in tat region to Peters’ 29 percent. Peters leads Land on his own turf, the Greater Detroit area, 43 to 41 percent.

This race promises to be the most competitive Senate race between a female Republican and a male Democrat since the rise of the Democratic “war on women” campaign theme of the 2012 campaign cycle. The new Conservative Intel poll actually shows Land leading Peters among women, 42 to 34 percent. Land’s favorables show no gender gap at all (32 percent with both men and women), although men are more likely to view her unfavorably (22 percent versus 14 percent for women).

The new poll also surveyed voters about the hotly contested 2014 race for governor and other state offices. Those results will be available on this website tonight. The poll’s full set of toplines will be available here (they are partially available now), and crosstabs will be posted when all the results have been published.

Source: Conservative Intelligence Briefing