## Politics

Lisa Murkowski had better hope that Sarah Palin doesn’t elect to run for the Senate in 2010. That’s because a Research 2000 poll conducted two weeks ago for Daily Kos has Murkowski trailing Palin 55-31 among Republican primary voters.

Sarah Palin had better not be so foolish as to challenge Lisa Murkowski. That’s because a Dittman Research poll for the local blog The Alaska Standard shows her losing to Murkowski 58-31 in a prospective primary matchup.

Huh?

Alaska is perhaps the most difficult state in the country to poll. Its residents are in a strange time zone and keep strange schedules; it has very high rates of cellphone usage; it has highly unusual demographics. Several pollsters, including Research 2000, had no idea that Don Young would hang on to defeat Ethan Berkowitz in November, nor that Ted Stevens would come so close to Mark Begich.

Nevertheless, I think this is pretty unprecedented. Two polls of the same race show a 51-point gap between them, with one having Murkowski leading Palin by 27 points and the other having her trailing her by 24. Which one is right?

Actually, I’m not sure that this one is too hard to adjudicate. The Alaska Standard is an attractive and engaging blog, but its lead author, talk show host Dan Fagan, is most definitely not a fan of Mrs. Palin. In fact, although Fagan is a staunch conservative, virtually all of his posts are anti-Palin in some way, most recently regarding some controversy surrounding Levi Johnston.

Fagan very much is a fan, however, of Lisa Murkowski. Not only that, but Murkowski has written an article for this website, and is listed as one of its contributors along the side panel. The pollster, David Dittman, is also listed as a contributor.

So you’ll excuse me if I don’t find it terribly shocking that when this website decided to conduct a poll, it contained GREAT NEWS!!! FOR LISA MURKOWSKI!!!

I don’t know whether Murkowski was directly involved with commissioning the poll in any way, but will presume that she wasn’t. Nevertheless, 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.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.

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