by Jim Nintzel
We still don't know if Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will be in the kind of shape she'd need to be in to run for the U.S. Senate next year, but Public Policy Polling's latest survey of Arizona voters shows she's extraordinarily popular in the wake of an assassination attempt:
The Democratic field for the Senate in Arizona has been frozen while people wait to see whether Gabrielle Giffords can run or not and our newest poll in the state tells you why—Giffords is extremely popular and would start the race with a lead.
57% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Giffords to only 17% with a negative one and 26% who have no opinion. Her numbers are sky high with Democrats (81/4) and independents (64/12) and even Republicans have a narrowly positive attitude toward her at 36/30.
Giffords would start out with a 7 point lead over the most likely Republican nominee, Jeff Flake, at 48-41. Giffords has a 24-point advantage over him with independents and takes 17% of the GOP vote while holding him to 9% of the Democratic vote. Giffords would also have a 54-36 lead over Sarah Palin, who there's been some minor buzz about as an Arizona Senate candidate, and a 57-31 lead over JD Hayworth, who challenged John McCain in the primary last year and whom some people think might do the same to Flake.
Even if Giffords does not end up being able to run Democrats should have some chance at taking this open seat. Voters in the state are pretty evenly divided in their feelings about Flake with 29% rating him favorably to 30% with an unfavorable opinion. He's not exactly a juggernaut. Last year's losing Democratic Gubernatorial nominee, Terry Goddard, would tie Flake at 45%. Flake would have wider leads over two other Democrats we tested- 46-34 over Congressman Ed Pastor and 47-33 over Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.
Gordon is pretty clearly not the direction Democrats want to go in if they hope to win this seat. His statewide favorability runs more than 2:1 negative at 18% with a positive opinion of him and 37% with a negative one. Pastor's not real popular either but he at least comes close to breaking even at 22/27. Goddard would be a good option for Democrats if he could be convinced to make another statewide run- 43% of voters have a positive opinion of him to 36% with a negative one.
Republicans would clearly be better off with Flake than Palin or Hayworth. In addition to trailing Giffords Palin would also start out down 9 to Goddard, 5 to Pastor, and 4 to Gordon. And Hayworth would be down 18 to Goddard, 12 to Pastor, and 8 to Gordon.
This race has been slow to get started while everyone waits to see what Gabrielle Giffords will do and that doesn't seem likely to change any time soon.