After a stunning August primary defeat over Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller seemed poised to cruise to a general election victory. But a flurry of missteps and a striking poll suggest he may be losing ground in what has become one of the most-followed Senate races in the country.
According to a new poll, which was conducted by the Hays Research group and funded by IBEW Local 1547 (which, notably, endorsed Democrat Scott McAdams in the race), Miller now finds himself in third place in the race, behind both independent write-in candidate Murkowski and McAdams.
The "write in candidate" - presumably Murkowski - leads the field with 34 percent, according to the poll. McAdams is up 13 points and comes in at 29 percent, while Miller is down 8 points with 23 percent support.
The decline in Miller's favorability, if legitimate, is stunning: 60 percent of those polled gave him a rating of "very unfavorable," up 38 percent in less than three weeks.
It's difficult to judge the poll's accuracy, however, and important to note that a CNN/Time Poll from October 20 had Miller and Murkowski in a dead heat, each garnering 37 percent support from likely voters with McAdams trailing with 23 percent.
Miller has been plagued by a series of bad press in recent weeks: On October 5, it announced that he would no longer be taking personal questions from journalists; on October 18th, his security guards elected to handcuff and detain the editor of an online Alaska news site at a town hall event.that the candidate's wife collected unemployment benefits despite his opposition to them; on the 12th, he
Then on October 26, one of the days the Hays poll was conducted, news broke that Miller had been punished in 2008 for conducting private polling on the job, and that he had then lied to cover up the wrongdoing.
Sarah Palin, whose endorsement of Miller is largely credited with putting him on the map, isto appear alongside several Republican leaders at a Thursday night rally in Miller's honor.
Meanwhile, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that polling officials are allowed to distribute lists naming the race's write-in candidates to Alaska voters who ask for them - which could ease the inherent difficulties for Murkowski's write-in bid at the polls.
The incumbent senator, if she wins, will be only the second person in history to be elected to a major office through write-in campaign - the first being South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who was elected in 1954.
In a campaign ad released today by Miller's campaign, Murkowski is depicted in Halloween-themed, witch-like terms and referred to as "She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
See it at left.
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.