Friday, September 08, 2006

Latest Rasmussen Poll Shows Alaska Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Sarah Palin In The Catbird Seat

According to the latest Rasmussen Poll, Alaska Republican gubernatorial candidate Sarah Palin (pictured at left) continues to lead her Democratic opponent, former two-term governor Tony Knowles, by a 52% to 38% margin. These numbers are virtually unchanged from last month’s potential head-to-head match up (51% to 38%). That poll was taken before Palin won the primary to become the official Republican candidate. This poll was based on a telephone survey of 500 voters taken on September 5th, 2006, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.5% with a 95% level of confidence. Read the full story here.

When Rasmussen attempted to determine the quality of opinion regarding these two candidates, additional poll breakdowns show that 34% of respondents report having a “very favorable” opinion of Palin, while only 25% have a "very favorable" opinion about Knowles. At the other end of the spectrum, Palin earns “very unfavorable” scores from just 6% of voters surveyed versus 17% for Knowles.

Voters tend to see both candidates as politically moderate—51% hold that view of Palin (51%) and 45% see Knowles in that way. Forty-four percent (44%) say Knowles is liberal while 37% say Palin’s conservative.

This confirms a follow-up post-primary poll taken amongst Alaskans by Dave Dittman from August 24th through August 30th, which showed Sarah Palin at 46%, Tony Knowles at 29%, Independent Andrew Halcro at 3%, with 22% Unsure. Sample size was 507, and the margin of error estimated at 4.4%. The unsure vote warrants further concern.

Back to Rasmussen - as a sidelight, lame duck Governor Murkowski will end his long political career on a down note. Just 5% of voters “strongly approve” of his stewardship while 54% “strongly disapprove.”

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information. Visit their Election Polls page to see a summary of our latest state-by state polling. Rasmussen Reports is polling every Senate and Governors' race at least once a month this year. We also update the President's Job Approval on a daily basis. Rasmussen Reports was also the nation's most accurate polling firm during the Presidential election and the only one to project both Bush and Kerry's vote total within half a percentage point of the actual outcome. Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade.

Analysis: The big deficiency in the Rasmussen Poll was the limitation to choose either Palin or Knowles. The Dittman Poll revealed a large undecided constituency which could be a wild card.

The "very unfavorable" scores are useful predictors. During the primary campaign, Dittman reported that while Republican lieutenant governor candidates Sean Parnell and Jerry Ward were in a virutal dead heat statistically, the Very Negative rating for Ward was 13%, while only 2% for Parnell. Guess who won? Parnell, by well over 10 percentage points. So the fact that Tony Knowles' Very Unfavorable Rating is three times higher than that of Sarah Palin further reinforces her 14-point lead, and, if the election was held today, we'd be calling her "Governor".

However, the election will not be held until November, and already some clouds are gathering on the horizon. An increasing number of Alaskans are expressing their concern over Palin's reluctance to provide specific solutions to various problems and to express her personal opinion about some controversial issues such as the proposed natural gas pipeline and a possible relocation of the state capitol out of Juneau. Much of this concern is being aired on Kyle Hopkins' Anchorage Daily News political blog. Palin wants a full discussion of all natural gas pipeline alternatives, not just the "highway route" down through Canada to the Lower 48, or the LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) route paralleling the Alaska oil pipeline and terminating at either Valdez of Kenai. Yet she's been slow to disclose her preferred alternative.

Even though Palin has supported capitol move initiatives in the past, she recently stated that she would prefer the state legislature to take the lead on this issue. Yet she failed to disclose her personal position on this issue. This is a potential problem not only because it makes her look indecisive, but when you run for office, you do so because you have strong feelings on various issues. Why be reluctant to disclose those feelings? It's time for Sarah Palin to open up a bit more.

The fact is, much of Sarah Palin's support on August 22nd was anti-Frank rather than pro-Sarah. She rode to the nomination on a bore tide of political reform that not only swept Ballot Measure One to victory, but also was strong enough to induce a slim majority of Alaskans to be utterly stupid enough to vote for Ballot Measure Two (letters from Outsiders published in the ADN during the past several days and discussed here shows the backlash is beginning).

However, the bore tide of reform is abating, and now Sarah Palin must campaign and win more on her own merits. This means Palin must become more specific. Her education vision appears nebulous and even a bit juvenile compared with the detailed proposals unveiled by Tony Knowles on his website. Here's Sarah Palin's education statement from her website:

Sarah is proud of her family's commitment to education. Sarah is a product of the Alaska education system and her parents have spent more than 40 years working in Alaska's schools. She understands how critical a role education plays in the future development of our state and knows first-hand the commitment required of teachers. Sarah believes every child deserves a good education, be that through parents' choices of traditional public, private, charter, correspondence, cyber or home schools. Sarah will make sure this includes outstanding vocational/technical training so our students who choose this path are prepared to work in Alaska's industries. Sarah knows that parental involvement is absolutely essential!

Where in hell's the beef??? Compare this with Tony Knowles' support for establishing a Trust Fund for Educational Excellence, along with his detailed, multi-faceted Plan for Positive Change In Education.

Sarah Palin simply must beef up her ideas to compete with Knowles' detailed proposals. Knowles is NOT Frank Murkowski. While Tony Knowles clearly was a no-growth governor for eight years, he doesn't carry the ethical baggage Murkowski did, and he expresses himself far better than Murkowski. It cannot be considered a slam dunk just because the polls continue to show Palin in the lead.

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