THE BLOG
05/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Could McCain Lose His Primary? Latest Poll Says It's Possible

Produced by HuffPost's Citizen Reporting Team

Could Senator John McCain be out of a job before the general election in November?

According to a new Rasmussen poll, John McCain holds only a seven point lead over his Republican challenger, former Congressman and radio talk show host J. D. Hayworth. The poll results show a startling drop in support for Arizona's senior senator; McCain led Hayworth by over 20 points just four months ago.

Probable Democratic challenger Rodney Glassman released a statement saying the Rasmussen poll showed that Arizonans are "ambivalent" about both candidates and not happy about a choice between "Washington insiders in the Republican primary."

Challenger Hayworth has certainly been very visible of late. Earlier this week he gave an interview on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show and another on a Florida radio station.

The Orlando interview resulted in a whole lot of attention for the former Congressman, due in large part to his statement about the definition of gay marriage. Hayworth claimed the Massachusetts Supreme Court defined marriage as "the establishment of intimacy." Maddow told Hayworth he was lying, since that phrase was never used to define marriage by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in any ruling. In the radio interview, Hayworth said, "I guess that would mean if you really had affection for your horse, you could marry your horse."

If Rasmussen's latest poll is accurate, Hayworth's publicity tour may be having some effect.

But is Rasmussen accurate? That's a question usually asked by Democrats. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com earlier this year discussed Raasmussen's supposed right-wing bias, saying in part, "They have a knack for issuing polls which tend to dovetail with conservative media narratives." But Time Magazine too questioned their impartiality, once describing Rasmussen as a "conservative-leaning polling group."

If Rasmussen does lean conservative, those particular pollsters might be very happy to see Hayworth win the primary; McCain is widely viewed by most conservatives as a traitor to the cause. Desert Conservative website says: "McCain will state he's a Reagan Republican, but nothing could be further from the truth."

Another conservative website, The Reality Check , goes much further down that rhetorical path, mocking McCain's "cretinous, liberal, anti-American foreign policies" and blasts Sarah Palin for supporting him. "She's just another RINO (Republican In Name Only) endorsing another RINO," says one post on the site. "She's endorsed a strident liberal who's trying to enrich himself with taxpayer money."

Hayworth is upfront about his own desire to appeal to that right wing discontent. His website's banner labels him "The Consistent Conservative."

McCain has countered by accusing Hayworth as being less a consistent conservative and more a member of the far right fringe of the GOP. Earlier this year McCain linked Hayworth to the birthers, saying Hayworth "can run from his record but he can't hide."

In a recent press release, Democrat Glassman says, "[Both men] are trying to create an image of something they are not. Both McCain and Hayworth would be better off if they owned up to their years in Washington and explain what they'd do with six more."

If this latest poll from Rasmussen is correct, there may be a major political story unfolding in the Grand Canyon State.