Alaska Troubles for John McCain

It's never a good sign when a party's top surrogate in a state talks up the standard-bearer of the other party. Think Gordon Smith trying to cozy up to Barack Obama and John Kerry in his latest ad campaign -- a sign not only that the Republican Senator believes that he is in jeopardy in Oregon but also that the Beaver state really isn't in play on the presidential level this year, either.

Oregon isn't the only state in which this is occurring for the Republicans. Take a look at what's going on in Alaska:

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin -- occasionally mentioned as a McCain vice presidential prospect -- has put out a press release praising Obama's energy plan.

Alaska energy politics seem to trump national politics here, though it's also interesting to see a red(dish) state Republican so willing to associate herself with the Democratic nominee.

"I am pleased to see Senator Obama acknowledge the huge potential Alaska's natural gas reserves represent in terms of clean energy and sound jobs," Palin says in the release. "The steps taken by the Alaska State Legislature this past week demonstrate that we are ready, willing and able to supply the energy our nation needs."

This story says quite a bit about the state of affairs in Alaska. The sitting GOP Governor, who prior to the new investigation into her alleged improprieties sported an 80 percent favorable rating, finds that she needs to sidle up to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in a state whose electoral votes have gone Republican in the last 10 elections... that can't be good.

Does this mean that Alaska is already a swing state on the presidential level? Not necessarily. But this move by Palin says at least as much about the politics in the state today -- the rise of the Democrats, particularly Obama, and the decline of the GOP -- as does the composite of recent polling, which shows McCain with an unimpressive 49 percent to 42.9 percent lead over his Democratic rival.

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Alaska Is a Swing State

Today brings news of two new polls out of the state of Alaska, both of which show John McCain's lead in the state, which only once in its history (Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide victory) has given its electoral votes to the Democratic presidential nominee, is well within the margin of error. First, here's Rasmussen Reports:

In one of the bigger surprises of Election 2008, early polling shows Barack Obama as potentially competitive in Alaska.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Alaska voters finds John McCain earning 45% of the vote while Barack Obama attracts 41%. Seven percent (7%) say they'd vote for some other candidate while another 6% are not sure (see video report). This is the third straight poll showing Obama within single digits of the presumptive GOP nominee. A month ago, McCain was up by nine. Two months ago, it was McCain by nine.

McCain is supported by 78% of Republican voters while Obama attracts 74% of Democratic voters. Among those not affiliated with either major party, it's Obama 48% McCain 33%. A month ago, Obama attracted 47% of unaffiliateds while McCain was supported by 41%.

McCain is viewed favorably by 57% of Alaska voters, Obama by 53%. Both figures are up a point over the past month.

Not only are these numbers within the Rasmussen poll's plus or minus 4 percentage point margin of error, according to Chris Cillizza, Democratic polling out of the state shows a very similar spread between McCain and Obama.

John McCain leads Obama 44 percent to 42 percent in Alaska, with Libertarian nominee Bob Barr taking 3 percent, according to the Global Strategy Group survey, which was conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and obtained by The Fix.

Alaska's three electoral votes aren't likely to be the ones that are going to swing this fall's election. That said, every additional traditionally Republican state that the McCain campaign is forced to defend this year is another headache that will siphon attention and money away from the other larger states McCain will need to carry in order to have any shot at winning the presidency (and judging by McCain's current performance in Ohio, Pennsylvania and even Florida, McCain's having some real trouble already in these states, too). And if McCain can be stretched ever so thin by being forced to defend a state like Alaska (and other states like Georgia and even Arizona) -- and it's looking more and more like this is a real possibility -- we could end up seeing a much wider electoral college spread than previously expected.

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