Following news that Sarah Palin will campaign for him in Arizona, Sen. John McCain has opened a significant lead in the Republican primary campaign.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely 2010 Republican primary voters in Arizona finds the longtime incumbent leading former Congressman J.D. Hayworth by a 53 percent to 31 percent margin. In November, the two candidates were virtually even.
Former Minuteman leader Chris Simcox gets 4 percent support, while 3 percent prefer some other candidate and 8 percent are undecided.
Bringing in Palin is significant for a candidate who has always had a troubled relationship with the Republican base. Polling last fall found that 61 percent of Arizona Republicans said McCain was out of touch with the party base.
Nationally, 75 percent of Republican voters say their congressional leaders are out of touch.
At the other extreme, 59 percent of Republican voters say Palin, McCain’s 2008 vice presidential running mate, shares the values of most GOP voters throughout the nation. Palin is critical of the internal workings of last year’s campaign effort in her new book but continues to praise McCain. While campaign staffers have fired back at Palin, McCain, too, has been complimentary about her.
To further shore up his position, McCain is also bringing in Scott Brown, the senator-elect from Massachusetts.
Hayworth, a conservative former congressman who now is a popular radio talk show host in Phoenix, is reportedly interested in the race but has not formally declared for it. For McCain, the GOP primary appears to be his biggest challenge since no major Democrats in the state have stepped forward yet to run against him.
Still, 74 percent of likely GOP primary voters have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of McCain, a figure that has not changed since November. Hayworth’s favorable ratings are down nine points to 58 percent.
Perhaps more significantly, the number with a very favorable opinion of McCain has jumped 10 points since last fall to 45 percent.
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