The GOP can't catch a break in Alaska. First Senator Ted Stevens was indicted for by a federal grand jury and insisted on a trial before the election in November. And now, a new poll shows that Congressman Don Young -- also under criminal investigation -- is nevertheless still leading in his own GOP primary, one the the party would likely prefer that he lose.
On Thursday, the National Journal wrote that bad internal poll numbers and a "lackluster" debate performance by Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell have sewn doubts as to "whether he can actually save the seat for GOPers." That Young would lose if he wins the August 26 primary is treated as a fait accompli by the Journal's article.
Now, a new independent poll conducted on behalf of several local press outlets has added another data point to a dispiriting cycle for the Republicans. The independent poll shows Young leading Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell in the Republican primary, 45.9 to 40.4 percent. This comes even after the pro-business Club for Growth rushed to Parnell's aide with over $100,000 in ads targeting Young.
Further complicating Parnell's attempt to become Alaska's corruption-free alternative to Young is a new controversy surrounding Gov. Sarah Palin, who endorsed Parnell over Young in the primary. On the same day Parnell rolled out a new ad featuring the popular governor, a story broke about her administration's role in firing a state trooper who had a nasty divorce with Palin's sister -- precisely the kind of bad-government story that has become all too familiar to Alaska's voters.
So, despite the fact that Rep. Young has spent his own re-election funds on lawyers to defend him against the ongoing criminal investigation, so far, he's still the odds-on favorite in the primary.
The morning after their recent debate, local conservative radio talk host Dan Fagan derided Parnell's performance against Young. "If you can ... still come away concluding that Sean Parnell is a leader, or Congress material, then I got a bridge I can sell you. I got some swampland down in Florida for you," Fagan said. "I don't know that a candidate can look any worse than Sean Parnell did last night."
If that opinion takes hold among Alaska's Republican primary voters, it could be the worst thing to happen to the state party in a year that has offered plenty of competition.