A new poll shows Attorney General Josh Hawley opening a sizable lead in this year’s Missouri U.S. Senate race.  The Axios/Survey Monkey tabulation gauged twelve Senate races in which Democrats are defending seats in states won by President Trump in the 2016 election.

In Missouri, Hawley, a Republican, holds an eight-point lead over two-term Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.  The margin of 52% to 44% is biggest lead for either candidate in what previous polls had indicated was a tight race with a slight edge for Hawley.

A survey released in January by the Democratic-affiliated firm Public Policy Polling showed McCaskill with a razor-tight 45%-to-44% lead over Hawley.  Another poll from the Missouri based, Republican-affiliated firm Remington Research showed Hawley with a 49%-to-45% advantage.

A CNN analysis in February ranked the Missouri race as the Democratic Senate seat most likely to flip in 2018.  Missouri had previously been a battleground state but has voted solidly Republican in recent years, with Trump winning the state by 19 points.

After a Democratic wave across the country helped sweep McCaskill into office in 2006, she was considered vulnerable in 2012.  But after severe missteps by Republican challenger Todd Akin, including a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely became pregnant, she won a landslide reelection.

Hawley is still a relative political newcomer, having been elected to his first public office in 2016.  He has had some wobbly moments in the early going of the current campaign.

Republican Congresswoman Ann Wagner, who ruled out a Senate run last year, was mentioned as an alternative to Hawley after he linked the spread of sex trafficking to the sexual revolution of the 1960s when women felt liberated.

Fundraising has also worked against him.  At last check, Hawley was significantly underperforming, ending 2017 with $1.2 million on hand after having raised $958,000 for the year.  By comparison, McCaskill raised $3 million and had more than $9 million in the bank.  Money could be moving in Hawley’s direction now.

President Trump will anchor a fundraiser for him in St. Louis Monday, where tickets will range from $5,000 to $50,000.  The widening gap in the Axios poll could motivate other Republicans on the national level to direct more money into the Missouri race.

After filing paperwork on the first day to run for the 2018 election, Hawley still hasn’t become the Republican nominee as Missouri holds its primary election on August 7th.  He is heavily favored over five lesser-known candidates to face McCaskill in November’s general election.

In the Axios/Survey Monkey Poll, only two other incumbent Senate Democrats up for reelection fared worse than McCaskill – Joe Manchin of West Virginia (43%-52%) and John Tester of Montana (42%-55%).  Both men were polled against a generic Republican as no formidable GOP candidate has surfaced in either state.

On the bright side for McCaskill, she stills has a positive approval rating of 55%.

The Survey Monkey/Axios online polls were conducted February 12- March 5, among a total sample of 17,289 registered voters living in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Montana, North Dakota.

Axios is a news and politics website founded in 2016 by former managers of Politico.