Polls: McCain Maintains Lead Over Hayworth But Still Faces High Unfavorables

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Sen. John McCain is ahead of his challenger in the Republican primary, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth — by either a decent-sized margin, or a really big one, depending on which recent poll one looks at. But he also still faces some potential pitfalls.

The new survey of Republican primary voters from Public Policy Polling (R) has McCain ahead by 46%-35%, with a third candidate Jim Deakin — who is running to the right of Hayworth, – at 7% support. The margin of error is ±5%.

On the other hand, the new Rocky Mountain Poll gives McCain a much heftier lead of 54%-28% against Hayworth among Republicans and independent GOP primary voters, with Deakin not included in the poll.The TPM Poll Average gives McCain a lead of 49.2%-38.2% in the Republican primary, putting the incumbent just below 50% support. McCain is being challenged from the right by Hayworth, who has charged that McCain is part of the Washington establishment and is not truly conservative on issues such as illegal immigration. This is seemingly a message tailor-made for Tea Party success, but it remains to be seen whether it will work. However, McCain clearly took it seriously enough to bring in Sarah Palin to campaign for him a month ago.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn said he thinks McCain will “win handily,” in part because he is taking the primary challenge so seriously and bringing in GOP superstars Scott Brown and Sarah Palin. “He’s going to be just fine,” Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast this morning.

A possible concern for McCain in the PPP survey is that 53% of GOP primary voters think McCain is too lenient in his positions on immigration, compared to just 32% who say he is about right, and 8% who say he is too tough. In addition, his approval rating is only 44%, with 45% disapproval — but on the other hand, this is better than Hayworth’s 37%-40% favorability rating.

“John McCain’s clearly in a weak position with Republican voters,” writes PPP president Dean Debnam. “The good news for him is that J.D. Hayworth comes into the race with a whole lot of baggage. That should really help McCain’s prospects for renomination.”

In addition, the Rocky Mountain poll had some cautionary notes for McCain. The poll focused on the general electorate rather than just the GOP primary, but had this to say: “On issues, McCain has some fences to mend. Except for the strong respect the general electorate have for Senator McCain’s work on maintaining a strong national defense, it appears that voters, many in his own party, are not enthusiastic about his performance in other policy areas tested in this survey. Overall, Senator McCain is given low job performance ratings in seven of 12 key ‘issues of the day’ including immigration reform, securing the US Mexico border, stopping illegal drug trade into the US from Mexico, working to create jobs in Arizona, seeking real solutions to health care and reducing the partisan stalemate in Washington.”

Additional reporting by Christina Bellantoni.

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