Poll: Sen. Bingaman posts double-digit leads over potential rivals

As long as Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) opts to run for reelection next year, Democrats shouldn't have a problem hanging onto his Senate seat. 

Bingaman's approval rating stands at 56 percent, and he leads all rumored GOP contenders for the seat by double digits, according to a new survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP).

In hypothetical 2012 general election match-ups, Bingaman leads former Gov. Gary Johnson 51 percent to 40; he leads Rep. Steve Pearce 57 percent to 34; and he leads former Rep. Heather Wilson 56 percent to 37. 

Still, there's lingering speculation that Bingaman might retire ahead of next year rather than run for a sixth term. That would put the seat in play, according to PPP's numbers, especially if Johnson opts for a Senate run rather than a bid for the GOP presidential nomination. 

In an open-seat race with Democratic Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Lujan as the party's standard-bearers, both would start out trailing Johnson. The former governor leads Henrich 44 percent to 43 and he leads Lujan 45 percent to 40. 

The poll surveyed 545 New Mexico voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.  

Bingaman's fundraising numbers from the final quarter of 2010 likely eased some Democratic minds ahead of 2012. He raised $216,000 during the final three months of the year.