New polling provides split picture of Alaska Senate race

GOP hopes of holding the Senate are facing a new roadblock about 4,200 miles away from Washington, D.C.

A new poll of Alaskan voters finds Democratic-backed independent Al Gross leading by one point over Republican incumbent Sen. Dan Sullivan. The survey, issued by Harstad Strategic Research, found 47% of Alaskan voters backing Gross with 46% backing Sullivan. The poll was taken between Oct. 10 and Oct. 13 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

The last survey issued by Harstad was conducted between Oct. 2-6, when the firm found the two candidates tied. The first poll by the group, conducted in late September, found Sullivan with a one-point lead over Gross.

“This progress confirms Dr. Gross’ continuing momentum and steady climb in recent months to his first tiny lead over Sullivan,” wrote Harstad CEO Paul Harstad.

Democrats, who need to win about four seats in November to regain control of the Senate, have until recently spent most of their attention on races in North Carolina, Georgia, Maine, Arizona, and Montana. These latest results could signal a shift in resources to the Alaskan race.

[ Read more: Alaska Senate race could be majority-maker for Democrats]

“In 2014, Dan Sullivan squeaked by with 48% of the vote and just a 6,000 vote margin for U.S. Senator in an awful year for Democrats nationwide and lower mid-term turnout,” Harstad wrote. “In an evenhanded election cycle or a presidential year turnout Sullivan would have lost that election six years ago, let alone in a strong Democratic year with a broader presidential turnout such as he is facing in 2020.”

But another poll, released by the New York Times and Siena College Friday afternoon, found Sullivan earning 45% support from voters in the state, compared to 37% for Gross. Ten percent of voters back Alaskan Independence Party nominee John Howe.

“Although Alaska remains a long shot for Democrats, many voters are backing a minor-party candidate, so there is an unusual amount of uncertainty,” the New York Times wrote. “Democrats can also hope that their candidates will bolster their standing over the final three weeks; they remain less known than the Republican incumbents and enter the final stretch with a significant financial advantage.”

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