Call it the birther crisis du jour! And this time, President Obama is off the hook.
It seems, if new polling data are to be believed, that Alaskans aren’t quite sure former Gov. Sarah Palin is actually one of them.
The survey, released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling (PPP), indicates that 47 percent of voters still consider her to be an Alaskan, while 46 percent do not. This revelation – or confusion – comes as Ms. Palin ponders a 2014 run for US Senate.
She has said she’s willing to launch a campaign, though she would have to emerge from a potentially crowded Republican field to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, who is seeking a second term.
Perhaps Palin has logged too much time on the national speakers circuit or chattering on Fox News, for which she’s an on-air commentator.
Palin’s relationship with voters in Alaska has grown tense in the wake of her unsuccessful 2008 run for vice president and then her decision to abandon the governorship halfway through her only term. It seems Palin, once the mayor of Wasilla, is out of state and out of mind. Hardly an ideal perch from which to seek office.
The PPP poll also reveals that 37 percent of Alaska voters think it would be more appropriate for her to run for the Senate from Arizona. We’re sure Sen. John McCain (R), Palin’s 2008 running mate and Arizona’s senior senator, might have an opinion about that.
When Palin first floated an interest in running, Senator Begich questioned whether Palin still lived in Alaska. So perhaps he has planted this seed of doubt in the minds of voters, if they hadn’t already grown weary of Palin’s national commitments.
"I don't know if she's a resident," Begich told Politico earlier this month. "She's been away from Alaska a lot and has probably lost touch with what's going on.... Most Alaskans I see on a pretty regular basis, but I haven't seen her for a long time.”
Palin is registered to vote in Wasilla, according to published reports.
But Begich also said Palin has “been somewhat vacant from the state and quit on the state.” Then, of course, he wished her the best on her potential candidacy.
The PPP poll finds Begich would trump Palin, who has not yet declared her candidacy, 52 percent to 40 percent. He leads by 21 points with independents. A February PPP survey found Palin trailing Begich in a head-to-head matchup by 16 points, so she’s gained some modest ground since floating her interest.
Overall, Palin leads possible Republican primary rivals: Thirty-six percent of GOP primary voters in the state say they'd like her to be their nominee, while 26 percent say that about Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. Fifteen percent are for Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, and 12 percent are for Joe Miller, the tea party darling and 2010 Senate nominee.
But it is Mr. Treadwell who fares the best against Begich. In a hypothetical matchup, the senator beats the lieutenant governor by only four points, according to PPP. That’s down from Begich’s eight-point lead over Treadwell in a February poll.
Palin’s overall approval ratings are dismal, however – as likely an indicator as any that she might take a pass on this contest. Her favorability rating is 39 percent, and her unfavorables sit at 58 percent. Independents, always a crucial swing-voter constituency, are particularly dissatisfied with Palin: Just 33 percent give her positive marks, while 64 percent rate her unfavorably.
Palin hasn’t said much about the contest since Begich took her to task about her residency. At the time, she charged him with voting with liberal Democratic Senate leaders, and she sought to tie him to Mr. Obama. But her Facebook postings are dominated by talk of fly-fishing with the former first dude, Todd Palin; visits to Greta Van Susteren’s show on Fox; news of her latest book’s debut in paperback; and musings on typical hot-button conservative topics, like Benghazi.
Conventional wisdom is that Palin will take a pass. She’s a business above all else. If she were to lose a primary or a general election, the brand would take a hit. That, of course, would hurt her bottom line.
And for Palin, that’s not a state issue but a pocketbook matter.