Alaska fallout: Murkowski likely to win, Palin at risk of losing?

Source: Hot Air

Gotta add a question mark to the headline here because there are no fewer than three quirks to Alaska’s primaries that make it hard to predict the outcome. One: Because the state is so huge and rural, there’s a lot of mail voting. And those ballots can take a week or two to come in. Two: Because so much of the mail vote is out, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions about the returns that are already in. Per the Times, 69 percent of the state has reported as of this morning. With nearly a third of the votes still to count, anything can happen. Three: Because Alaska uses a ranked-choice system, predicting the winner is more complicated than guessing who’ll finish with the most votes once they’re all counted. In fact, there’s real suspense in Sarah Palin’s race as to how many Alaskans who voted for other candidates were willing to name her their second choice.

But let’s not let something like a shortage of facts and data stop us from speculating wildly about the outcomes.

I’m not sure we need to speculate much about the Senate race. This seems like a pretty darned good result for Lisa Murkowski.

One can only assume that Murkowski rather than the Trump-backed Tshibaka is the second choice of most of Chesbro’s Democratic voters, which means those ballots will go to her in the second round of counting. And if so, that would put her tantalizingly close to 50 percent.

If there’s any doubt that Murkowski was the de facto Democratic choice yesterday, chew on this:

You’d rather be Murkowski than Tshibaka here. Particularly when you realize which parts of the state have yet to report:

If Murky is the unofficial Democratic nominee, she may well approach 50 percent once the first round of ballots is counted. So long as she picks up Chesbro’s voters as second choice (or even first choice) in the second round, she’s in a good position to win. The combination of Dems, moderate Republicans, and mavericky independents in Alaska may well give her the sort of majority coalition that eluded Liz Cheney in blood-red Wyoming.

So the dynamics of the Senate race are straightforward. The dynamics of the House race, in which Palin is facing off against Republican Nick Begich and Democrat Mary Peltola, are more complicated. That’s because Alaskans have … strong opinions about Palin, good and bad. With 69 percent reporting, that polarization plus the fact that the Republican vote is split between two candidates has delivered a surprising result — the Democrat is in the lead. And according to pros who’ve been watching this race, she stands a decent chance to pull the upset.

There’s no doubt that there are more Republicans than Democrats in Alaska, which might lead you to think that Palin is sitting pretty here. If these results hold when the first round of voting is over, she should get the lion’s share of Begich’s votes as their second choice. And that should put her over 50 percent and send her to Congress. In theory.

But that’s where those “strong opinions” come in. Many Republicans supporting Begich are likely doing so because they’re not fond of the most famous Republican in the race, so much so that they may have listed Peltola rather than Palin as their second choice. A poll of Alaska taken last month, in fact, found that if Peltola and Begich finish as the top two, Begich would win the final round easily since he’s the second choice of the great majority of Palin’s hardcore Republican voters. But if Peltola and Palin finish as the top two, uh oh:

A meaningful chunk of Begich’s Republican voters *really* don’t like Palin, it seems, and therefore prefer Peltola. A few of those anti-Palin Begich supporters are even named, uh, “Palin”:

On Monday evening, Ms. Palin’s former in-laws were also hosting a fund-raiser for Mr. Begich at their Wasilla home. Jim Palin, the father of Ms. Palin’s ex-husband, Todd, declined to comment on Ms. Palin. But when asked why he was supporting his former daughter-in-law’s rival, he said, “He will stay in that job for as long as we want him to be.”

Hoo boy. Anyway, it’s possible that Begich comes from behind once the outstanding 31 percent of the vote is counted and surges past Palin into second place, knocking her out of the race. But even if she holds on and Begich is eliminated, it’s conceivable that Peltola squeaks through to victory in the end. Again, as noted above, most of the votes yet to be tallied reportedly come from Democratic areas, which should pad Peltola’s vote share. The fact that she would be the first Native American to represent Alaska in Congress may also have helped her in a state where 15 percent of the population is Native. Combine all that with the anti-Palin faction among Begich’s voters and yeah, a Democratic upset is conceivable.

Although even if it happens, Alaskans will have to do this all over again in three months. Last night’s race was a special election to serve out the remainder of the late Don Young’s term, which will end on January 3 of next year. The November election will decide who serves the next full term in the House representing Alaska. It’d be weird if Peltola won the special election and then Palin won the general election, but Alaska’s a weird state. Stay tuned.