Monday, August 30, 2010

Baked Alaska

In comments at The Other McCain and Independent Political Report, I made two predictions yesterday:

1) That the Alaska Libertarian Party will not make its ballot line available to US Senator Lisa Murkowski if she loses the GOP primary for re-election to office; and

2) That Murkowski will, in fact, win that primary.

Prediction #1: Check. While I'm no longer a political partisan (this is all just horse-race stuff to me now), my nostalgic attachment to the Libertarian Party is still strong enough for me to be proud of and grateful to the Alaska LP for not selling out.

Prediction #2 has yet to play out, but the number of as-yet-uncounted ballots keeps increasing (it was 8,000 on Wednesday morning, now it's at 25,000 and rising) and that tends to advantage Murkowski.

Why? Two reasons:

1) Absentee ballots tend to be marked and sent in early. Murkowski's primary opponent, Joe Miller, closed a ginormous polling gap in the month leading up to the election to emerge as the apparent victor on Tuesday. The earlier the ballot was cast, the more likely that ballot was marked for Murkowski.

2) Miller's campaign was a grass roots, "on the ground" operation in Alaska. A lot of Alaska's absentee voters aren't just disabled and homebound, or out of town on election day. Some of them designate Alaska their official residence, but split their time between there and elsewhere. Some are military personnel deployed outside the state. Some live in areas remote enough that the candidates won't be knocking on their doors and absentee voting just makes the most sense. Murkowski has the advantage of incumbency and name recognition with those voters.

Miller is ahead by 1,688 votes. There are, at present, 15,720 uncounted absentee ballots; 663 uncounted "early votes;" and 9,117 "challenged" ballots. That's 25,500 ballots.

The statistics I've seen put the ratio of Republican to Democratic primary ballots at 80/20, so we're probably looking at about 20,400 ballots here. To tie it up, Murkowski needs to get 11,888 of those votes to Miller's 8,512 -- 58.x%.

I expect that she'll do at least 55% on the absentee and early ballots, and far, far better than that (75% would not surprise me) on the "challenged" ballots.

Why so well on the "challenged" ballots? Because she's got the money behind her (her own campaign's money and money from the national GOP establishment, in particular the National Republican Senatorial Committee) to lawyer up in a big way. She'll challenge every ballot for Miller, and hotly contest every challenge to a ballot for herself.

Could I be wrong on this? Sure -- it's happened before. But I remain confident in my prediction that Lisa Murkowski will appear on the November ballot as the Republican Party's candidate for US Senate.

Update, 09/01/10: Well, I blew the second call there. Murkowski has conceded. I thought her chances still looked reasonably good on the absentee/challenged ballot count, but apparently she decided it was over (and/or wanted to get it under the bridge and in the past before the weekend news talk TV cycle ticks over).

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