Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has a small lead over two likely Republican Senate candidates in a hypothetical primary matchup, according to a GOP poll.
Palin has given no indication that she's close to returning to public service, including next year in a challenge to Democratic Sen. Mark Begich. But the poll, conducted by GOP firm Harper Polling on behalf of the Tea Party Leadership Fund, found that a majority of Alaska Republicans still view her in a positive light.
With no indication of a Palin candidacy, the more telling news in the poll was that Joe Miller, who ran for Senate in 2010, had the worst image among the three Republicans and trailed Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell in a two-way race. Treadwell led 45 percent to 26 percent, with 29 percent unsure.
In a three-way GOP primary, Palin took 32 percent, followed by Treadwell with 30 percent and Miller with 14 percent. About a quarter of voters were undecided.
Asked who would fight hardest for conservative values, 45 percent said Palin, 25 percent chose Treadwell and 15 percent picked Miller. Meanwhile, 62 percent said they view Palin favorably and 30 percent unfavorably.
(See also in Roll Call: Joe Miller: GOP Establishment Not 'Terribly Excited to See Me')
Forty-nine percent viewed Miller unfavorably to just 34 percent who had a favorable opinion. Treadwell is the least known of the three, but 54 percent held a favorable opinion of him.
Treadwell and Miller are still in the exploratory phase of their campaigns. Both are making sure they have the donor and grass-roots bases in place to compete in what would likely be a competitive primary.
Palin endorsed Miller in 2010, when he defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the primary. Miller ultimately lost in the general, as Murkowski won re-election as a write-in candidate.