• 47-41 vs. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan 47/41
• 47-39 vs. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell
• 50-40 vs. ex-Lt. Gov. Loren Leman
• 54-38 vs. ex-Gov. Sarah Palin
• 58-30 vs. 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller
While Republicans will probably find succor in the fact that their most popular would-be contender, Parnell, ties Begich out of the gate, there isn't much reason to expect him to run for Senate. That's because Parnell is also up for re-election (more on that in a bit), and he'd almost certainly cruise to a second term. (Alright, really, second-and-a-halfth term, since of course Sarah Palin bugged out halfway through her tenure.)
Palin's obviously not going to run, either; at this point, Miller and Treadwell look to be closest to making the race, though Sullivan, Leman, and others may also take the plunge. Of course, those Miller numbers look awfully delicious, but unfortunately for Democrats, Republicans seem to hate him, too. Tom Jensen also tested a hypothetical GOP primary (leaving out Parnell and Palin), and Miller, sadly, brings up the rear. Head below the fold to see how the Republican field shakes out.
Alaska, though, is a notoriously difficult state to poll. In 2008, the last time it saw a competitive race (when Begich narrowly knocked off the late Ted Stevens, and Ethan Berkowitz put a serious scare into Rep. Don Young), polling tended to badly overstate Democratic chances. Part of that may have been the unpredictable Palin effect, and part of it may just be that it's difficult to get a proper handle on the electorate in far-flung Alaska.
But if these numbers are accurate, then the question is whether Begich will be able to make it from around the 47 percent mark all the way up to that magical 50. I think he can, since he's a strong campaigner and also won't have to contend with a presidential election—and Sarah Palin—at the top of the ticket.
The governor's race, though, looks like the wipeout you'd expect. Here's how Parnell fares against some possible challengers (none of whom have actually expressed any interest in running):
• 52-34 vs. 2010 Senate nominee Scott McAdams
• 51-29 vs. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre
• 51-25 vs. state Sen. Joe Paskvan
All of these guys except Berkowitz are unknown to more than half the populace (even McAdams, who ran some memorable ads three years ago), and Parnell doesn't put up dominant figures of his own, but seeing as he starts off at 50 percent, it's hard to imagine him losing. I'd actually call that good news, since it makes it more likely Parnell will stay put—which means someone of lesser stature will have to take on Begich. And Democrats can definitely be glad of that.