Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is used to sailing with the prevailing political breeze, but this year she is heading into a storm.
"Certainly I think this year is different than previous years for Boxer," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll in California.
Last month, the Field Poll found Boxer virtually tied with each of three potential GOP opponents and she actually lagged behind one, former Rep. Tom Campbell, by a point.
The day the poll was released, Boxer assured reporters she could handle the challenge, telling them, "All my races have been hard."
But this race could be different, say analysts.
"I don't believe there has ever been a time when she was trailing in any measure," DiCamillo said. "I would label this seat this year as very competitive and a tossup seat."
Boxer's threatened re-election bid is tied to her image among voters, which has worsened in recent months. The Field Poll in January found registered voters viewed her favorably, 48 percent to 39 percent. But those numbers nearly reversed themselves by March, with Boxer's unfavorable rating rising to 51 percent and her favorability score dropping to 38 percent.
DiCamillo says Boxer was damaged in part by the passage by Democrats of the president's massive health care program. Other political analysts say Boxer has sagging poll numbers because of the anti-Washington sentiment across the country. California is suffering from 12.8 percent unemployment and a massive state budget deficit.