Poll watch: The Kennedy disaster, Palin loses to Murkowsky

Just a day after I argued that Caroline Kennedy could make a weak general election candidate because of her struggles on the trail and her lack of engagement with policy matters, Public Policy Polling released a poll testing Kennedy and Andrew Cuomo against the most probable Republican candidate, Rep. Peter King. The result is an unmitigated disaster for the former first daughter.

While Cuomo crushes King 48% to 29%, Kennedy is locked within the margin of error: She has a 46% to 44% edge. Stunningly, a quarter of Democrats say that they would turn their back on the dream of Camelot and cast a ballot for King!

Yes, Kennedy has not even been appointed. Yes, she would not face voters until November 2010, and she would certainly have time to improve her image and position herself as a hard-working incumbent until then. But let’s put these numbers in full context. Kennedy carries one of the most famous last names in American society, she has high name recognition, and she was supposedly a darling of the Democratic base; King, by contrast, is one of New York’s 29 representatives, and his name recognition isn’t particularly high. Most respondents can only situate him based on his party affiliation, and this is the staunchly blue Empire State we are talking about.

A poll released in such a context should have found very favorable results for Kennedy, not a tie. That the survey is being released before she is even appointed and before King declares his candidacy only makes it look worse for Kennedy, not better.

Worse still, Kennedy’s loss of standing since early December makes it difficult for her camp to argue that she would improve her numbers as New Yorkers get to know her as the incumbent. If a Senator Kennedy performs the same way as candidate Kennedy has over the past few weeks, Peter King would have a very good chance to score an upset indeed.

Finally, Kennedy performs 27% worse among white voters than does Cuomo; she trails by 9% while the Attorney General leads by 18%. Over the past few decades, white ethnics have been the vulnerability point for New York Democrats and King has already been pressing his case among that constituency by touting his modest roots and opposing them to a Kennedyesque entitlement.

Given that Alaska has become one of the most reliably Republican states in the country, whoever emerges out of the GOP’s Senate primary would be a shoo-in for the general election. That might make a Senate run an attractive option for Governor Sarah Palin if she feels like defeating incumbent Senator lisa Murkowski is not too difficult a task.

Two weeks ago, a Research 2000 survey found that Palin would crush Murkowski in a Republican primary. Today, however, a new poll commissioned by a conservative radio host finds the reverse result, 57% to 33% in Murkowski’s favor. The survey also finds that both women have strong approval ratings.

This poll suggests two things. First, Palin should be very careful about what she chooses to do: It would naturally be a disaster for her presidential ambitions if she were to not run for a gubernatorial re-election in 2010 but lose the Senate primary, leaving her out of a job. Second, we should not trust polls from Alaska; something about the state makes surveys extremely unreliable. Such a big disparity between two surveys taken over a similar period is a clear indication of that, as is the massive polling error every single polling outfit committed when testing Ted Stevens’s and Don Young’s re-election race.

3 Responses to “Poll watch: The Kennedy disaster, Palin loses to Murkowsky”

  1. 1 MSW

    I wouldn’t put too much reliance on any polling data in Alaska–these two polls show two drastically different results, and I don’t think they should be relied upon. I think that Alaskans may play closer to the vest on their true intentions on how they plan to vote than any other electorate in the US (see Young/Berkowitz, Stevens/Begich).

    I doubt if Palin needs to run as senator anyway if she wants to one day run for President. Her main strength with the conservatives is her not being a Washington insider. She will have trouble being a “maverick” in the republican caucus, which would negate her other supposed strength.

  2. 2 Panos

    And Nate Silver shows that this Alaska poll is of dubious validity. It was commisioned by a Murkowski ally for his blog.
    So we should be double wary of those results.

  3. 3 mikeel

    I just hope Gov. Paterson is paying attention. Caroline Kennedy must be tone-deaf or something.

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