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AK-Sen: Murkowski Drawing Plenty of Votes, But...

by: James L.

Wed Sep 29, 2010 at 8:14 PM EDT


Opinion Research for CNN/Time (9/24-28, likely voters, no trend lines):

Scott McAdams (D): 22
Joe Miller (R): 38
Lisa Murkowski (I): 36
(MoE: ±3%)

Craciun Research for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (9/24-25, likely voters, no trend lines):

Scott McAdams (D): 19
Joe Miller (R): 30
Lisa Murkowski (I): 41
(MoE: ±5.7%)

Nate Silver, however, hits on some problems with the methodologies of both polls:

The issue with each of these polls, however, is that they made no particular accommodation to account for the fact that Ms. Murkowski will be a write-in candidate, as her name was mentioned alongside Mr. Miller and Mr. McAdams.

Indeed, and as Nate later tweeted, perhaps the best approach that pollsters should take would be to ask voters if they're voting for McAdams, Miller, or a write-in. That would then be followed by a prompt to ask who they're writing in (rather than offering Murkowski as a choice). However, this methodology would be difficult for a robo-pollster to accommodate (though it shouldn't be too hard for Opinion Research or Craciun, who use live interviewers). After all, the way these pollsters are framing the choice doesn't reflect the realities of the ballot.

It's also worth noting that Scott McAdams only went up on the air last night for the first time, so add that as another reason why these polls may represent something of a high-water mark for Murkowski that she is unlikely to obtain in November.

Meanwhile, CNN/Time also polled the gubernatorial race...

Ethan Berkowitz (D): 38
Sean Parnell (R-inc): 57
(MoE: ±3%)

Interestingly, Berkowitz's margin is actually slightly worse among registered voters (at 58-36). The guy is tenacious, but this looks pretty tough.

James L. :: AK-Sen: Murkowski Drawing Plenty of Votes, But...
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I bet Berkowitz is kicking himself for not going for the Senate
He'd probably have a better chance there than now (although to be fair, running for governor was still probably smarter than running for senator when he announced given that Murkowski was pretty much seen as invulnerable at the time).

Politics and Other Random Topics

24, Male, Democrat, NM-01, Chairman of the Atheist Caucus, and Majority Leader of the "Going to Hell" caucus!


An apples to oranges thought
Based on http://www.swingstateproject.c...

Assuming the apples to oranges comparison is valid

Murkowski is taking more from McAdams than Miller -- roughly 2x as much.

IF Murkowski's numbers begin to fade, will her support go more towards McAdams?

If her support is distributed on a 2/1 basis towards McAdams, that would put him at least in striking distance.

And what of the Libertarian? Don't they typically get a significant share of the vote in statewide Alaska elections? Or is all of that support magically going to Miller this time around?


Very interesting
That 2:1 split was the exact assumption I made when modeling this election to compare 2-way and 3-way outcomes.

And yes, independents and minor parties like Libertarians, Greens, and AIP consistently draw votes in races where they run a candidate.  It is very difficult to break 50% in a heavily-contested election in Alaska.


[ Parent ]
If I were a robopollster, here's what I would do
Q1. If the Senate election were today, would you vote for....Democrat Scott McAdams? Republican Joe Miller? Libertarian David Haase? Or, would you write in someone else's name?

Q2. (If Write-In) Whose name would you write in for US Senator.....Sarah Palin? Tony Knowles? Lisa Murkowski? Mike Gravel? Or, someone else?

This forces Murkowski voters to pick write-in instead of getting her as a ballot option, but also forces them to explicitly pick Murkowski from all the names you could write in. Palin, Knowles, and Gravel, are just placeholders--you could throw in the name of any Alaskans there. But I think this would give more accurate results than, "Are you going to write in Lisa Murkowski?"

20, CD MA-03/NH-01/MA-08


Uh-oh
As Nate implies, these polls are next to worthless... BUT in the absence of more reliable information, could create a self-fulfilling prophecy that McAdams can't win, while Murkowski can.  DSCC needs to get on the horn to Ivan Moore, stat.

No, I don't think there's any risk of such a self-fulfilling prophecy......
It's a hugely overstated myth that a media narrative about the state of a horse race can drive the outcome.  Maybe that can happen toward the end with regard to a blowout narrative driving down the losing side's turnout, which MIGHT have happened in VA-Gov last year, but even there I'm doubtful because I think the reality of Deeds' bad campaign was the depressing force rather than any media narrative.  The media horse race discussion doesn't affect voting behavior.  Voters just don't respond to that, they plan on voting for whoever they want.

What McAdams simply has to do is to get his ads on TV in heavy rotation and build up his name recognition, his favorables, and people's confidence in him.  That's very doable.

Come mid-October, he'll have to decide whether to also go negative on Miller and/or Murkowski, although I'm guessing his best bet is to leave Murkowski largely alone and count on her Dem-leaning support to slide.  He MIGHT have to attack Miller if Murkowski isn't effective in knocking him down.

I stand by my position that McAdams has a shot.  I don't have any illusions, I know this is Miller's to lose, that he has to screw up to lose.  But he has already screwed up plenty, he is in over his head, and the conservative nature of the state and the anti-Dem environment are what he's counting on.  But there is a plausible path to victory for McAdams.

43, male, Indian-American, Democrat, VA-10


[ Parent ]
I think McAdams is at the best place right now
1 commercial attacking him will yeild far fewer votes than miller attacking murkowski, or vice versa because mcadams doesn't have any more votes to bleed, he's at, or close to bare minimum.  if he waits in the shadows until the last few weeks while miller/the tea part and murkowski bludgeon each other he MIGHT have a chance.

Top ten signs you're an SSPer #1: your favorite song is "Panic At Tedisco" and no one understands what you mean.

[ Parent ]
I'm not so worried about Alaskans listening to pundits
I'm worried about them listening to Lisa Murkowski herself.

If she maintains this polling profile for long enough, she can go on air in the final week and say "Scott McAdams is unelectable, and here's the proof."  In fact, I hope she doesn't read this, because it's exactly what I would do if I were her.  She can make it interesting with R-leaners alone, but if she wants to win, she NEEDS to peel off some voters who would otherwise choose McAdams.

Granted, I expect a vigorous TV and radio (not to be neglected in Alaska) campaign to move the numbers in reality, but McAdams cannot allow himself to be seen as the spoiler.

BTW, if "the media horse race discussion doesn't affect voting behavior," then how do you explain Charlie Crist's strength among Florida Democrats?  I agree this statement is (trivially) true in 2-way races, but 3-ways open the door to strategic voting, which by definition REQUIRES some a priori estimate of the strength of the candidates.


[ Parent ]
I disagree, she doesn't have a path to that many Dem votes on election day......
I'm sure responding to phone surveys intrigued people pick Murkowksi as a write-in, but she's promised to caucus with the GOP and has a reliably conservative voting record.  What sale does she make to Dems?

McAdams can easily disarm her arguments, and he appears to have the resources to buy the visibility to do so.  Federal largesse is something Begich and Young will take care of.  Beyond that, Murkowski and Miller will vote the same.  Yes Miller will be a much more embarrassing spectacle, but why do AK Dems and Dem-leaners care if the end result is the same?

It's easy to argue Murkowski=Miller, because it's largely true in all the ways most Democrats care.

This isn't like FL-Sen where Crist is ambiguous ideologically and it's widely reported he'd caucus with Dems.  He's much stronger with Dems than Murkowski, and yet he still is sliding hard.  Murkowski will have a harder time maintaining the Dems and Dem-leaners she needs.

43, male, Indian-American, Democrat, VA-10


[ Parent ]
"Federal largesse"
I think our main disagreement is on the importance of this issue to most Alaskans.  You claim they will be fine letting Begich and Young handle it for them, and that other issues will factor more prominently in their vote; I claim it is the political third rail of the state, never before seriously challenged by either party... and they will be very uncomfortable with any elected official from Alaska breaking the unified front supporting "largesse."

As I have admitted before, my arguments turn on that assumption, which could certainly be falsified.

Especially if my assumption is incorrect, your argument could also be turned on its head, and posed to Republicans and their allies: Murkowski and Miller will vote the same on everything except pork, so why should so they consider abandoning the party nominee over just one area of disagreement?

Finally, I want to reiterate that I really enjoy this discussion.  I realize I might be developing a reputation as the Alaskan Tekzilla, but Alaska is a funny place where some of the usual rules "down south" don't necessarily apply - and obviously, getting elected in Alaska as a Democrat is no easy row to hoe.


[ Parent ]
Row to hoe
Off-topic, but it's such a pleasure to see that phrase spelled correctly. So many people nowadays are so disconnected from farms and gardens that they think it's a road, not a row of crops that's being hoed.

On-topic: I'm enjoying this discussion, too. And now, I'll continue and read further.

"I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"
--  Will Rogers  


[ Parent ]
Continuing on, several things......
First, your third paragraph is something I had thought of as well, that the argument that Miller and Murk are the same on everything but pork and others will take care of pork only helps Miller consolidates Republicans.  In fact I bet that's what a lot of Republicans who voted for Miller in the primary and plan to vote for him in November already have been thinking.

And yes, it's a risk that the message of Lisa almost=Joe that helps McAdams take Dems from Lisa also helps Miller take Repubs from Lisa.  McAdams has to just cross his fingers that there are enough Republicans and Republican-leaners who are offended and angry toward Miller that they stick with Lisa anyway.

Second, I actually will grant your assumption that federal largesse is the political third rail of the state, but even then I doubt it's enough to overcome among Dems and Dem-leaners the combination of Murkowski's consistently conservative record, her promise to caucus with the GOP if she wins, and the reality that these are voters who before voted AGAINST her and NEVER have voted FOR her.  Murkowski has no organic popularity with these voters, they don't care about her.  That combined with a lack of any organizational infrastructure make any current support she has from Dems and Dem-leaners very unstable and unlikely to hold.

The bottom line is I think the only way she holds voters who otherwise would vote for McAdams is if she stays extremely close to Miller in polling and, as the election gets real close, she's obviously the ONLY one who can beat Miller.  But if she falls back at all, there's no reason for her left-leaning support to hold at all.

43, male, Indian-American, Democrat, VA-10


[ Parent ]
Stranger things have happened this year...
Maybe Murkowski can win as a write-in? Given, it's not probable... But possible, especially if she can deny Miller any help from the GOP establishment.

But more likely, she may just end up going the way of Charlie Crist (who's actually on the ballot!) and fade away as more voters pick McAdams or Miller.

Now I can see the reasoning behind McAdams' first ad.

Yes, Virginia, there ARE progressives in Nevada!
24, gay male, Democrat, NV-03 (or 04?)


I think the national GOP
will stay out of this.  Either Miller or Murkowski will caucus with them.  They may attack McAdams if he gains traction.

Libertarian secular Republican, MO-7

The
Tea Party Express/Club for Growth/DeMint's PAC will do the dirty work for the national GOP if McAdams gains traction.

19, Male, Independent, CA-12

[ Parent ]
Yup, which is why McAdams' best bet is if he can surge at the end...
...when it's too late for anyone to stop him.

A few people have mentioned the Creigh Deeds primary win as the model, and that's as good a model as any for McAdams' best hope.

Problem is, you really don't control the TIMING of momentum.  You're always trying to move numbers your way at all times, and it just happens when it happens, if it happens at all.

43, male, Indian-American, Democrat, VA-10


[ Parent ]
Senate conservatives fund
Will Demint run ads against Murkowski?  I know the NRSC won't.

Libertarian secular Republican, MO-7

The Tea Party Express might
But as for DeMint's PAC, I don't think--he'll be supporting Miller, but I doubt he'll directly attack Murkowski. There will be enough races where he can support his candidate by attacking a Democrat with SCF money--CO, WI, NV, PA, and WA come to mind--that he won't want to waste time or money attacking another Republican.

However, if McAdams makes this competitive, you will certainly see national conservative groups bringing down the hammer on him. They've put too much work into putting the Senate in play for a race like this to screw everything up.

20, CD MA-03/NH-01/MA-08


[ Parent ]
Because DeMint has shown real intelligence in the strategy department
After that idiot endorsed O'Donnell against Castle, I don't really believe that guy really gives a damn about the Republican Party's senatorial prospects.

DeMint is a purity troll, and overall he doesn't do your side any favors IMHO.

Politics and Other Random Topics

24, Male, Democrat, NM-01, Chairman of the Atheist Caucus, and Majority Leader of the "Going to Hell" caucus!


[ Parent ]
Other than the votes he casts, he doesn't help our side at all
But I think there's a difference between the primary and general election DeMint. His mission is to have as many principled conservatives in Congress as possible, which gave the rest of our party a lot of headaches during the primaries and probably cost us a seat or two. But now that his candidates are facing Democrats, he's going to be focusing on winning the elections, and I don't think Lisa Murkowski is his most pressing concern (I personally think he'll adopt NV-Sen as his pet project.)

By the way, DeMint's SCF actually has 11 candidates still alive that they're supporting: Toomey, Rubio, Johnson, Buck, Angle, Rossi, O'Donnell, Miller, Paul, Lee, and DeMint himself. I expect him to cut ads for the first 9 of those.  

20, CD MA-03/NH-01/MA-08


[ Parent ]
How exactly does DeMint justify keeping Rossi on that list?
You can say a lot of things about Rossi, but "principled conservative" just isn't one of them.

Politics and Other Random Topics

24, Male, Democrat, NM-01, Chairman of the Atheist Caucus, and Majority Leader of the "Going to Hell" caucus!


[ Parent ]
They haven't put the Senate in play...
They would need every single tossup to go their way, plus a few seats that are leaning Democratic. That's not feasible.

But that isn't to say that they wouldn't want a Democrat to get a toehold on a senate seat from AK. That could haunt them for decades.


[ Parent ]
That's just silly
I'm sorry but that comment about the Senate not being in play is unrealistic. There are no less than 12 Democratic-held seats that recent polls have shown to be at the very least within the margin of error. It may not be likely, but it's certainly in play. I have seen commentators on here even mentioning that they are more confident in holding the House than the Senate.  

[ Parent ]
There are 4-5 Republican held seats that are also "in play"
For the Republicans to win, they'd have to win at least 14 of 17 seats (defend all of their seats and still win 10 Democratic-held seats (a tie does nothing for the Republicans, as the Vice President is a tie-breaker).

The Senate is theoretically in play, but realistically the Republicans can't take it, there are way too many things that would need to break perfectly for the Republicans for them to really have a chance of take-over.

Politics and Other Random Topics

24, Male, Democrat, NM-01, Chairman of the Atheist Caucus, and Majority Leader of the "Going to Hell" caucus!


[ Parent ]
True
but in each GOP-held open seat the Republican has had a consistent upper single digit lead, if not double digits. I think we are starting to see Portman pull away from Fisher (by quite a bit even), Ayotte pull away from Hodes, I don't see AK being competitive, especially with the new numbers including Murkowski, Kentucky was always going to be a heavy lift for Conway and Paul has consistently led, and more recently it looks like Blunt is putting together a lead in Missouri (I haven't seen any polls showing Carnahan ahead). At this point I don't really see any of the GOP open seats flipping.  

[ Parent ]
Ayotte is NOT pulling away, Hodes pulled closer post-primary, and KY-Sen is very much in play......
Neither Ayotte nor Paul is putting any distance between themselves and their Democratic foes.

Hodes has a steeper hill to climb, but the polling did have him closer post-primary and he still has a plausible shot.

And Conway is still in very good shape.  Frankly he's in much better shape than Carnahan or Sestak, who no one here gives up on.  He has a LOT of material that can be used against Paul effectively, Paul has really hurt himself badly.  The state's conservative lean and the year's anti-Dem sentiment are the only things keeping Paul in front, his own campaigning has dragged him down.

I really consider KY-Sen close to a 50-50 opportunity for us, and I'm a realist, not at all a consistent optimist.

43, male, Indian-American, Democrat, VA-10


[ Parent ]
I would still say
that Ayotte being up an Average of 8.3%, according to RCP, is pretty substantial. And Hodes is no superstar on the money front. It's looking like NH is poised to go red like it went blue in 06. Even Lynch isn't polling as well as expected.

And Paul is up 5.8% on average, which includes SurveyUSA who only had it at 2 and everyone seems to dismiss their other polls so it really would be higher w/o it. Yes, Paul says some looney things, but I feel like it just won't matter this year. He has a lot of money and its Kentucky. They elected Jim Bunning twice. It will definitely remain tight just because of who Paul is but I still see 6-7 point victory for him in the end.  


[ Parent ]
"In play" does not mean "likely to flip"
I'd take about a 1 in 10 flier on Republicans taking the House now--it isn't gonna happen unless everything breaks perfectly, which is not impossible in a wave.

Despite the long odds, the Senate is indeed in play because I count 12 Democratic seats that Republicans are competitive in--ND, IN, AR, PA, CO, WI, IL, NV, WV, CA, CT, and WA. Of course, I also count 5 GOP seats (KY, MO, NH, AK, OH) that Democrats are competitive in, so Republicans would have to retain all those plus win 10 of the 12 competitive D seats.

20, CD MA-03/NH-01/MA-08


[ Parent ]
1 in 10 on Republicans taking the House?
Did you mean the Senate?  Otherwise, would you mind elaborating why you see their chances so low?

[ Parent ]
Yeah, sorry, meant the Senate
I'd put House chances at about 60-40 in favor of the GOP, down from what I would have said in August (maybe 70-30 then.)

20, CD MA-03/NH-01/MA-08

[ Parent ]
Kind of like what happened in 2006, right?
In any case, it's certainly quite possible for them to win all the tossups and a few seats that lean Democratic. It might be improbable, but it is clearly far from impossible. It reminds me of something Phil Rizzuto said on a Yankees broadcast in 1981: "The Yankees are still in the game....Down 3 runs in the bottom of the 7th." The Yankees did win that game, by the way, though I don't remember how or what the final score was.

"I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"
--  Will Rogers  


[ Parent ]
We did not win all of them in 2006...
We lost Tennessee...

[ Parent ]
I'm aware of that
But I don't think Virginia had even been expected to be that close, before the "Macaca" remark.

"I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"
--  Will Rogers  


[ Parent ]

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