Sunday, July 23, 2006

Craciun Poll Shows Palin And Knowles Respective Leaders In Alaska Governor's Race

In the horse race to win the Republican nomination for governor on August 22nd, former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin is way out in front, according to a poll released by an independent research firm Saturday. Palin is running against incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski and former state Sen. John Binkley. Binkley and a pollster working for his campaign dispute the new numbers and say their research shows Binkley in first place. This poll is separate and distinct from the Murkowski poll conducted by SurveyUSA which I discussed on July 22nd.

Anchorage-based Craciun Research Group conducted a poll of 408 registered voters across Alaska from Monday through Friday of last week, asking whether they plan to vote in the primary elections, which ballot they'll take and who they'll vote for. The poll had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.The firm is not working for any candidate in the campaign. Click here for full story from the Anchorage Daily News.

Among registered voters who said they'd definitely or very likely vote in the closed Republican primary, 36 percent preferred Palin, compared with 23 percent for Binkley and 20 percent for Murkowski. Another 21 percent were undecided.

With four weeks to go, those results mean Binkley and Murkowski need to make big changes, said Jean Craciun, president and chief executive of the polling firm. "Now they go into more extreme measures, if you will. Definitely they all probably come out and attack Palin." And already the Randy Ruedrich clique has been taking some potshots at her through their "Minister of Propaganda" Paul Jenkins of the Voice of the Times (frequently nicknamed the "Veco" Times because the Voice of the Times works in the Veco Building). Anchorage Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins discusses this in his campaign blog, here and here.

In the Democratic primary, the Craciun poll shows former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles with a whopping 53-percentage point lead over Anchorage lawmaker Eric Croft. "We knew going up against a two-term governor who just spent $5 million getting his name out for a U.S. Senate race would be tough," Croft said in a phone interview from Fairbanks, where several of the candidates gathered for the city's annual Golden Days parade.

Croft has said he'd be a tougher negotiator with oil companies than Knowles and Saturday predicted he'd be a better match-up in the general election against Palin than Knowles. "If the Republicans put up a new voice, aggressively standing up to big oil, and the Democrats put up a big-oil candidate, I think that hurts the Democratic chances in November," he said.

Knowles couldn't be reached for comment Saturday night, but his campaign manager, Leslie Ridle, said the poll shows people trust Knowles to lead the state. "I think in November, they'll pick the experienced candidate," she said.

Among candidates for lieutenant governor, the new poll reports that Rep. Ethan Berkowitz of Anchorage holds a 50-percentage point lead over Sen. Donny Olson, of Nome, in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, former state legislators Jerry Ward and Sean Parnell were nearly neck and neck for the lieutenant governor job, but 56 percent of respondents were undecided.

Governor Frank Murkowski was in Anchorage Saturday for the annual governor's picnic. He said he hadn't seen the poll results and didn't want to talk about them. But on Friday, Murkowski had said he didn't consider himself an underdog in his re-election campaign. "I consider myself the sitting governor who's been making decisions, and some of them aren't easy but we're making them anyway."

Palin wasn't surprised by Saturday's results. She said she's heard she held an 11- to 16-point lead in the Republican primary for months.The Craciun poll shows her with a strong lead in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Borough, where she lives, and particularly popular among people who consider themselves moderate to conservative. Murkowski was most popular in Southeast Alaska, and among those who think of themselves as "very conservative." Binkley was the favorite in his hometown of Fairbanks, where Palin said she needs to spend more time campaigning.

Earlier in the campaign, Binkley hired another Anchorage pollster, Marc Hellenthal, to track the race. Binkley said a Hellenthal poll conducted last week shows him winning 39.2 percent of the vote among people who plan to vote in the Republican primary, compared with 34.5 percent for Palin and 15.9 percent for Murkowski, with 10.4 percent undecided. A previous Hellenthal poll also showed Binkley in the lead. Regardless of what the numbers are, Binkley said, his campaign's consistent polling has shown him gaining votes over the past several months.

Hellenthal said his poll was based on calling 323 voters at random. He said Saturday that he could not provide the list of questions or the results of his poll without an OK from Binkley.

Analysis: This is the second poll showing Sarah Palin with a significant lead over her two most prominent Republican opponents. Ivan Moore's earlier poll also showed the same lead. In contrast, both Hellenthal polls showed John Binkley with a modest lead amongst the Republicans. Perhaps Binkley should find a different pollster, although Hellenthal's poll, like those of Craciun and Ivan Moore, also showed Murkowski in last and Tony Knowles with a huge lead over Eric Croft.

Binkley's best bet is to ignore Hellenthal's numbers and start campaigning like hell in Anchorage. He cannot win the Republican nomination without winning Anchorage. He shouldn't waste much time campaigning in the Mat-Su Valley - that's Palin Country.

Sarah Palin may have overreacted a bit to Paul Jenkins' query about her few campaign e-mails from her office computer during her lieutenant governor campaign. A few e-mails in that case hardly compare to Randy Ruedrich literally running the Republican Party out of his state office when he was a state commissioner. Palin needs to stop and think before going into John McCain Meltdown Mode. She has nothing to prove in regards to personal integrity - nearly every one believes integrity is her strongest attribute. When you become the front-runner, you not only attract light - you also attract heat.

Frank Murkowski has no chance, not even if he gets approval of the natural gas pipeline contract before the primary election. He waited too long to enter the race and he unfortunately pissed off too many people along the way.

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