Could Sarah Palin win a Senate race?

Two recent polls showed very different results; was one prompted by the incumbent senator's fear of Palin?

By Vincent Rossmeier

Published January 7, 2009 5:12PM (EST)

Sure, Sarah Palin has returned to her quiet life of governing Alaska, but that doesn't mean she's going to be content grand-mothering, hunting and watching turkey beheadings forever.

One of the possibilities that's been discussed for Palin's future is a Senate run in 2010, and she hasn't ruled the idea out. But would she be able to unseat Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski? Two recent polls provide very contradictory answers to that question.

Tuesday, Dittman Research released a poll that showed Murkowski crushing Palin in a potential Senate race face-off, 57 percent to 33 percent.  But wait -- those worried that Palin might become no more than a mere calendar model should know that a December Research 2000 poll sponsored by DailyKos found that 55 percent of Alaskans favored Palin. Murkowski got the support of only 31 percent of respondents.

What to make of those disparate findings? Poll guru Nate Silver of points out a reason why the two polls' results may be so skewed. The Dittman Research poll was paid for by Dan Fagan, a talk show host and writer for The Alaska Standard blog, who has shown a remarkable dislike of Palin in many of his posts. Silver writes, "the Dittman poll should be regarded the same way that a 'leaked' internal poll is, which is to say very dubiously. And if Murkowski was for some reason involved in the creation of the poll, the fact that she feels the need to start spinning 18 months before a primary against an opponent who has yet to declare for the race and probably never will suggests to me that she's very scared of the 'Cuda indeed."

Polls continue to show Palin with favorability ratings at or above 60 percent in Alaska, which is lower than the rating she had before she ran for vice president but still quite good. Additionally, more than 60,000 people have joined, an organization devoted to uniting the various fan clubs of the former Republican vice-presidential candidate.

Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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