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Portrait of Dan Sullivan (R), standing outdoors in front of snow-covered evergreen trees
Dan Sullivan, the newly minted Republican nominee for Senate in Alaska
Once again, the polls were really, really wrong in Alaska—and in a way that may have hurt Democratic Sen. Mark Begich's chances of keeping his crucial Senate seat. Pollsters did indeed correctly predict that Dan Sullivan, the former head of the state's Department of Natural Resources, would win the Republican nomination on Tuesday night, which he captured with 40 percent of the vote.

But in a huge shocker, tea partier Joe Miller, whose destructive 2010 Senate bid tore open a deep fissure in the GOP, finished in second with 32 percent of the vote. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who'd long appeared to be the only serious threat to Sullivan, brought up the rear with 25. The polling data, however, had it exactly backwards. Miller never once so much as grazed second place all year, and a final poll from Sullivan's own pollster, Moore Information, put him 25 points ahead of Miller! So the question is, was private Democratic polling similarly awry?

Perhaps Miller never had any shot of stopping Sullivan, but no one ever tried to help him. Democrats ran a few ads that seemed aimed at boosting Treadwell's profile, but surely it would have been worth attempting a Claire McCaskill-style ratfuck painting Sullivan and Treadwell as insufficiently purist while portraying Miller as the one true believer. As an added benefit, this would have been true! And it seems like a real missed opportunity, because Miller's performance against Begich in the polling averages was much worse than his two opponents':

Charts of AK-Sen poll averages
But that's all "what if" territory now. Begich, at least, expected Sullivan all along, given that he was the choice of the Republican establishment. And Sullivan certainly has his own weaknesses, particularly his thin ties to Alaska, a state that takes citizenship very seriously. This was always going to be one of the most difficult holds for Democrats, though, and nothing about that changed on Tuesday night.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 09:07 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    Get the Daily Kos Elections Digest in your inbox every weekday. Sign up here.

    by David Nir on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 09:07:01 AM PDT

  •  I was surprised Miller came in second but I don't (5+ / 0-)

    think Democrats ever really anticipated a Miller victory. And they didn't, they knew it was going to be Sullivan all along.

    Funny Stuff at

    by poopdogcomedy on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 09:18:27 AM PDT

  •  Don't think so (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, Rich in PA

    Alaskans already know who Joe Miller is. This sort of tactic only works if a candidate is not all that familiar. Miller's name rec (and shortcomings) was probably near 100% in the state. Those who voted for him were always going to vote for him, but everyone else was just choosing between Sullivan and Treadwell. Boosting Treadwell would have hurt Sullivan and perhaps created a chance for Miller to slip in between them, but as he didn't top 33%, that was mathematically impossible in the end.

    I don't know how I'm meant to act with all of you lot. Sometimes I don't try, I just na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na

    by Zornorph on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 09:59:22 AM PDT

    •  Low information voters everywhere (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      USA629, Dave925

      I don't think it likely that every single Miller voter was some committed Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz loving tea partier.  Some people just remembered his name from 2010, or heard someone say something positive about him.  Some were probably on the fence, and could have been persuadable by other candidates.  And in the same way, it's not like every single Sullivan and Treadwell voter detested Miller and knew that the latter was the weakest general election candidate.  If Miller had more money, he could have peeled off some of them too.

      As much as we'd like to think voters are as engaged and politically knowledgeable as we are, it just ain't so.

    •  And I think it only works well the first time. (0+ / 0-)

      The local media would be more savvy about it the next time, even in a different state, and it could backfire.  

      It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

      by Rich in PA on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 06:33:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  good news/bad news.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terranova108 seems to me that there's both "good news" and "bad news" for Begich in these results. While it shows that the more mainstream candidate with heavy Republican establishment backing won, which gives Begich perhaps his strongest opponent of the three running, the fact that such a high percentage of voters supported Miller could still be a little bit of a benefit for Begich in November. The reason: as much of a radical, right-wing whacknut as Miller is, it seems to me that there are likely to be at least some of his voters who would be turned off to either the Democratic or Republican candidate in November. If they lose interest and enthusiasm, that could mean that some of Miller's voters might not even bother to vote in this contest, as a bit of a protest.

    Is there a libertarian running in November?

    •  Yes and an Alaskan Independence (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      James Allen

      For some reason completely beyond me, the Republicans have one primary and the Democrats, Alaska Independent and Libertarians have another joint one (and then the highest vote getter for each of the Democrats, AI and Libertarian advance to November.

      The winning Libertarian was Thom Walker, the winning AI was Vic Kohring. I was sort of hoping that Mark Fish had won the Libertarian nomination since he was a staffer for both Miller and Palin according to Wikipedia.

      •  If there's a libertarian (0+ / 0-)

        on the ballot in November, then that means at least some of Miller's folks might be inclined to support him over Sullivan.  

      •  open vs. closed primary (0+ / 0-)

        the Democrats, AI's, and Libertarians are on the same ballot because theirs are open primaries - anyone can vote in that if they don't want to vote R

        you have to be registered R or I to vote in the Republican primary, so that's a closed primary - I'm sure Democrats would have easily crossed lines to vote for Joe Miller (many chose to by registering as Independents - I for one didn't KNOW ) - and of course, it's a dirty tactic, but fair game

        Either way though Begich is going to have to get a lot of support - I think his supporters in this state are fired up and know they've got a lot of outside money coming in and Mark, last night on TV, hammered the point that he hopes his opponent will be talking about what's real to Alaskans and not be getting his talking points spoon-fed to him from special interests outside the state.

        There are only two kinds of music - the blues and Zip Pa Dee Doo Dah - Townes Van Zandt

        by whiskeytown on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 09:39:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Lots of wackos in Alaska. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Caped Composer

    I always thought that Miller would do good. Whether these baggers will go for Sullivan or stay home is the question. Sullivan will have to throw them some red meat to get their vote. Interesting article in the ADN about Bill Walker by his wife. She is outraged that people are calling he hubby an Republican. Just because he was registered as a Republican for years and his political philosophy is Republican. She says he is an independent. There you have it, a Republican who isn't a Republican and a carpet bagger who says he isn't. As they say who are you going to believe me or your lying eyes.

  •  I think the Joe Miller surge (0+ / 0-)

    really came in the last week or two.  So I'm not sure they could have done a whole lot, they didn't have advance notice that Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee would endorse Joe Miller at the very end.  

    If you refuse to vote for the Democrat in a Presidential general election, then I hold you personally responsible for any right-wing Supreme Court decision.

    by USA629 on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 10:25:21 AM PDT

    •   Begich has been leading in the polls, by 4-7 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terranova108, Tailspinterry

      points, and  should be considered the favorite in the race. its hard to unseat an incumbent, heck it took a federal indictment to remove Stevens, and he still came with a couple thousand votes of keeping his seat. Begich can tie Treadwell to Pebble Mine, a very unpopular ting in the bristol Bay area and aceross the state. the votes on basically blocking Pebble will be on the ballot as well as marijuana, in exchange for having the  oil repeal vote yesterday.

    •  Tea Party folks knew (0+ / 0-)

      That Miller would be using robocalls from Huckabee and Joe Arpaio during the last week, and were telling folks publicly.

      Unbelievably, they wasted money robocalling Democrats in Juneau Precinct No. 2, which always votes 90% Democratic.

      Nothing pisses of Alaskans more than robocalls --- we've been asking Mark to stop using them but he's clueless.

      The thing that will help Begich the most in the general will be Sullivan's thin claim on being Alaskan.  We hate carpetbaggers here, and Sullivan has a bunch of problems in claiming Alaskan residency, including problems with hunting licenses (very sensitive issue here) and claiming resident tax exemptions in Maryland.  

      And Alaskans really resent his Outside funding.

      "Everybody wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to die" --- Albert King

      by HarpboyAK on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 12:42:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Question what is the percentage of the pop. is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Native American and how many of them vote? seems that the Democratic Party would be a much more friendly Political Party for them than the Republican Party is an so if the Native Americans in Alaska have a pattern of low turn-out then maybe a large GOTV effort would get Democrats elected there.

    •  Democratic candidate for Gov is Tlingit (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      so the bush villages will turn out to vote for Mallott and vote for Begich.  Many elders have fond memories of Mark's father when he was our last real Congressman.

      "Everybody wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to die" --- Albert King

      by HarpboyAK on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 12:45:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm registered as "Independent" (0+ / 0-)

    in Alaska which means I can take the Republican primary ballot should I choose to do so. Yesterday I did just that and voted for Joe Miller. I was truly sorry to see my chosen candidate lose. Now on to the general election where I will vote for Mark Begich.

  •  Carhart (0+ / 0-)

    When did a Carhart jacket become mandatory for politicians?

    Are brand new working clothes really effective for connecting with workers?

    I guess a picture wearing that jacket next to a pickup truck gets the working class vote according to political handlers?

    I don't mind if a person running for political office dresses like a professional in a suit and a tie. I guess democrats do it to look more centrist, and republicans dress like carpenters to throw off their pro-big business leanings, but it's cartoonish.

    Does the republican nominee in Maine dress like a lobsterman?

    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill (Before the internet.)

    by New Jersey Boy on Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 06:55:55 PM PDT

  •  " Claire McCaskill-style ratfuck " ?? (0+ / 0-)

    For some reason, DK front pager like to corrupt American political language by using the term "ratfuck" to describe lawful conduct of Democrats and their campaigns, when the term "ratfuck" in American politics was born with the Richard Nixon's law-breaking campaign felon-operatives.

    It is a stupid thing for progressive Democrats to be doing.

  •  yes, a huge chance was missed (0+ / 0-)

    every democrat needs to hire someone to go to all republican candidate events and ask several simple questions of the candidate as much as they can:

    1. how old is the earth?
    2. do you believe in evolution?
    3. is being gay a sin?
    4. should all abortion be banned?

    they created this Frankenstein's monster, we need to turn it against them.  

    Miller could have run this race, if the D's in Alaska were organized enough to attack the R weaknesses in their primary.  

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