The good news for Jay Inslee is that he's closed the gap to three points -- 46-43 percent -- with GOP challenger Rob McKenna, according to the latest Survey USA poll for KING 5 News. It's the closest Democratic congressman has been in months. Still, there are some ominous signs, as the survey of 617 voters statewide show that the Attorney General remains well-positioned to become the state's first Republican governor in 32 years.
McKenna is doing well with independent voters, leading Inslee by 8 points, 44-36. More worrisome for the Bainbridge Democrat, though, is polling data showing McKenna winning Puget Sound. Taken together, King, Pierce and Snohomish counties show McKenna ahead 45-44 percent.
These three counties -- King County, in particular -- are essential Democratic turf. Democrats engaged in a statewide race need to do well here to offset much of the rest of the state. It's how Sen. Maria Cantwell squeaked out her victory in 2000 over longtime incumbent Slade Gorton. Sen. Patty Murray relied on heavy turnout and a whopping 65-35 margin over Dino Rossi in King County to beat him (52-47 overall) in 2010.
If McKenna continues to approach even 40 percent in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, Inslee could find himself in a very difficult position.
The poll shows McKenna enjoying a 44-35 lead among voters asked who would do a better job handling the economy. On education, an issue Democrats usually own, McKenna is ahead 40 percent to 35 percent. On social programs, Inslee leads 43-40 percent, and holds a commanding 45-30 percent lead on the environment.
The Survey USA poll has found 11 percent of voters still undecided and has a margin of error of plus/minus 4 percent.