Jon Kyl is one Republican Senator who doesn't appear to be at serious risk of a Tea Party challenge, but our polling about such a prospect says a lot about the Republican electorate the party's candidates have to contend with now.
Kyl is very popular with GOP primary voters in Arizona, 70% of whom approve of him to only 16% who disapprove. Beyond that 68% think that ideologically he is 'about right.' Only 9% think that he's too liberal, actually smaller than the 10% who think he's too conservative.
So you would expect that when asking Republicans whether they want their candidate to be Kyl or someone more conservative next year that he would be around 70% on that question, right? Wrong. Only 46% of primary voters commit to supporting Kyl in that instance while 30% say they'd take someone more conservative. Even though all but 9% think Kyl is conservative enough, 30% still want someone more conservative. For about a third of the GOP primary electorate, no matter how conservative you are, if they can find someone to the right of you they'll trade you in. Kyl himself probably won't have to deal too much with that reality but many others in the party will.
If there's one region where Mitt Romney seems to be the strongest of the Republican candidates it's the west. Our polling has consistently found him with a large lead in Nevada and he has the top spot in Arizona as well. 23% of Republicans say he'd be their top choice to take on Barack Obama next year to 19% for Mike Huckabee, 15% for Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, 5% for Ron Paul, 4% for Tim Pawlenty, 2% for Mitch Daniels, and 1% for John Thune.
Arizona is emblematic of one of the core problems for a prospective Palin candidacy- popularity does not equate to support for the Presidency. She has the highest favorability with primary voters at 66% to 62% for Romney and Huckabee, and 59% for Gingrich. But despite that she still finishes in a tie for third eight points behind Romney when it comes to who people actually support for the nomination.
Arizona is a rare state where not only is Romney ahead, but he's ahead with both conservatives and moderates rather than having a huge lead with moderates allow him to survive a poor standing with conservatives. Suffice it to say he'll need a lot more of those states that put him tops with conservatives because he's found himself in fourth place with those voters a lot more in our polling so far this year than first.
Full results here