Top of the ballot: Coats getting by, but Souder's fate ominous

TOP OF THE BALLOT ON A SUNNY FRIDAY: Former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) up double digits in the Senate primary, but Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) has no such luxury in his race -- what does it mean for incumbents everywhere?; former N.H. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte looking strong in the general election, but she's got a primary first; and a billionaire will make Rep. Kendrick Meek's (D-Fla.) Senate path more costly and difficult.

Coats getting by, but what about Souder?

Former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) has a race on his hands, but Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) may be even more vulnerable.

Those are the results of two new SurveyUSA polls on Tuesday’s big primary. While Coats leads former Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.) 36-24 in the Senate race, Souder’s lead in his primary is even more tenuous, at 35-29 over businessman Bob Thomas.

This half of the Ballot Box previewed the Indiana primaries about a week ago. At that point, there wasn’t clear evidence that Souter was in danger, apart from the personal wealth Thomas has thrown into the race (about $220,000 now). But the SurveyUSA poll shows Souder treading water even as a third candidate in the race, attorney Phil Troyer, splits the anti-incumbent vote and takes 19 percent.

Coats, meanwhile, looks to have a significant cushion on the man who has threatened him most in his primary, state Sen. Marlin Stutzman (R). Despite some recent signs of momentum, Stutzman was in third with 18 percent, meaning he has plenty of ground to make up in the final few days.

If Souder or Coats go down, it will be a bad sign for the political establishment. Neither would likely have much trouble in a normal election year, but this year is proving anything but normal.

Ayotte in command -- in general election, at least

A new Granite State poll from the University of New Hampshire shows former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) opening a huge lead in a prospective general election matchup with Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) for the Senate.

Ayotte leads 47-32, while other potential GOP nominees hold more narrow leads on the congressman.

It’s Ayotte’s biggest lead in the race yet, and her favorable numbers seem to be holding up during a contested primary.

Her favorability stands at 38 percent positive and 13 percent negative, while Hodes’s numbers are at 30 percent positive and 31 percent negative. It seems logical that Ayotte’s unfavorable number will rise eventually, but she seems to be in a good spot right now.

Of course, her only concern right now should be businessman Bill Binnie and attorney Ovide Lamontagne in the GOP primary. The poll didn’t test the primary, but Binnie will likely outspend Ayotte on the race, and Lamontagne’s grassroots support could threaten Ayotte as well.

Other updates

-Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D) has pulled to within eight points of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) in their primary and trails 43-35, according to a new Research 2000 poll for the liberal website Daily Kos.

-Now the Charlie Crist is running with no party affiliation, billionaire Jeff Greene is launching a campaign against Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) for the Democratic nomination in the Florida Senate race. This is going to cost Meek some serious money.

-David Axelrod, the top adviser to President Obama, told the Chicago Sun-Times’s Lynn Sweet that the White House will not force Alexi Giannoulias from that state’s Senate race. Giannoulias has come under fire after his family bank failed.