Could the Libertarians Spoil Alaska for the GOP?

John McCain isn't the most popular Republican for Alaskans. On Super Tuesday he placed fourth in the state's caucus, behind Ron Paul. McCain's opposed to drilling in ANWR, a real political anomaly for a Republican in this state—even most state Democrats want to start the drills spinning. So I'm not surprised to see that a Research 2000 poll (conducted for Daily Kos) shows McCain leading Barack Obama by only 7 points, 49-42, even though George W. Bush beat John Kerry 61-36. Actually, I think McCain could lose the state. Two reasons.

1) The Republican brand is shattered in Alaska. Gov. Sarah Palin is popular, but she became governor by primary-ing the loathsome Frank Murkowski. Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, both on the ballot this year, are more in the Murkowski mold. And right now they're both losing to Democrats.

2) Alaskan voters, all 470,000-odd of them, are unusually amenable to third parties. In 2000, Ralph Nader crested 10 percent of the vote here. In 1992, Ross Perot got 28 percent. The Libertarian Party's best ever state result was Ed Clark's 12 percent haul in 1980—I'm pretty sure he knocked Jimmy Carter into third place in some precincts.

So a lot of the scaffolding is there that could make this state a Libertarian target. Bob Barr, for example, voted for drilling in ANWR, and could lace into McCain on the issue. A higher-than-normal number of Alaskans will be voting Democratic down the ballot, and might want to split it...and hey, there'll be another conservative candidate they can vote for if they can't stomach Obama. (The Constitution Party's Chuck Baldwin will be on the ballot, too.) If the LP shot for a 1980-sized 10 percent of the vote—around 30,000 ballots—it's possible to see Obama winning the state with 45 percent.

Caveats: I talked with 1992 LP candidate/former Alaska office-holder Andre Marrou few months back, and he was incredibly pessimistic about the LP's chances in the state because he thought the brand was so damaged. Also, Ralph Nader will probably make it on the ballot, but his total probably won't even match the 1.4 percent he got in 2004. But it's still something to watch if the race gets close. Obama will have the money to spend if the spirit moves him, although it would be a time-suck for either him or McCain to take a detour to Anchorage. (We all laugh at Richard Nixon's 1960 trip to Fairbanks, but he only won the state by 1,000 votes.)

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  • Neil||

    McCain will win Alaska, easy.

  • .||

    McCain will win Alaska, easy.

    You have almost assuredly just caused an Obama win in Alaska. Congratulations.

  • Neil||

    He will never, not in a million years stand a chance in Alaska.

    If he wins there, I'm going to have to look for a lot of liqour because it will mean Lyndon Johnson 1964.

  • Neil||

    He=Obama.

  • Colin||

    McCain won't win anywhere easy.

  • jkp||

    Interesting, but I doubt it.

    Polls don't count for anything before Labor Day, though they do generate a lot of hot air in the media. If BHO is within striking distance in Alaska in mid-September, then you may have a point. Otherwise....yawn...slow news day, eh? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • ||

    good god..not this old self important argument again....

  • ||

    Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, both on the ballot this year, are more in the Murkowski mold. And right now they're both losing to Democrats.

    I believe Rep. Young has a primary challenger (Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell) who is polling ahead of him currently, and, I believe he is allied with Palin. If that is the case, and Young loses the primary, the GOP holds the seat.

  • David Weigel||

    it will mean Lyndon Johnson 1964.

    No, Obama can win Alaska even while he's barely winning the election. Alaska's factors will be unique - a top-tier issue that the GOP candidate is "wrong" on, a Democrat running hard down the ballot in a state where Democrats aren't usually GOTVing as hard as they can on election day.

  • ||

    So McCain's against drilling in ANWR. Where else does he want the government to get in the way of energy exploration? Off- shore? Government restrictions continue to make energy far more dear than it need be.

    He also favors "Cap in trade" laws to address what he claims is the reality and severity of anthropogenic warming.

    Cuz of these two and, mostly, his position on the war, I will not vote for him. (Full disclosure: Reagan is the last GOP candidate whom I voted for for pres.) It's too bad cuz McCain has a very good record on total government spending and Obama's big spending record is among the worst in the Senate

  • ||

    Dear God. McCain is going to win in a landslide. Not just Alaska, the whole shebang.

    Vice President Sarah Palin.

    Genius.

  • boston||

    quick question

    I talked with 1992 LP candidate/former Alaska office-holder Andre Marrou few months back, and he was incredibly pessimistic about the LP's chances in the state because he thought the brand was so damaged.

    The LP Brand? Why?

  • ||

    Oh man, would I love to see Stevens and Young sent on their merry way.

  • ||

    Neil | May 15, 2008, 4:12pm | #
    McCain will win Alaska, easy.


    Not with my vote.

    I believe Rep. Young has a primary challenger (Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell) who is polling ahead of him currently, and, I believe he is allied with Palin. If that is the case, and Young loses the primary, the GOP holds the seat.


    I am amenable to this. The GOP holding one more seat makes it closer to gridlock. Don Young holds too much power in congress, better to have a junior representative than a senior one.

  • Episiarch||

    Dear God. McCain is going to win in a landslide. Not just Alaska, the whole shebang.

    Vice President Sarah Palin.

    Genius.


    Hmm. Is McCain actually smart enough to do this?

  • ||

    I voted for Ron Paul in the Republican primary. John McCain is not an option in November.

  • Neil||

    I understand hating Stevens but why Young?

    IIRC hes a solid conservative Republican and drives the loony left nutso.

  • ||

    Episiarch,

    If he is, perhaps I've underestimated him.

  • ||

    Since Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is going to be on the '08 ticket as McCain's VP, this column is irrelevent, and of course Alaska will go for the GOP's McCain-Palin.

    (I'm assuming the McCain team is going to go with its very best VEEP prospect, in fact the one the Dems fear the most, Palin.)

  • Neil||

    Palin is not only a solid, deep-red Conservative Republican, shes also sexy.

  • twv||

    Young prides himself on his pork. He competes with Stevens to come up with goofier and goofier projects for federal support.

    So, for these reasons alone he's quite awful.

    I don't live in Alaska, so I don't know how the citizens there deal with the fact that they get more goodies than almost any other group in the nation. They may think of themselves as "self-reliant," because ofthe cold, but the whole state suffers from handout-itis.

    Welfare queens of the north.

  • ||

    Looks like the Palin option may be true.

  • ||

    Ted Steven's famous 'series of tubes' youtube display of stuttering technological ignorance being a highly viewed viral internet phenomenon had to have had some impact on the republican brand in Alaska.

  • ||

    I don't suppose we have any polling on what Alaskans think of Obama v. McCain, or even Hillary v. McCain, do we?

    Because elections generally come down to who you can't stand to vote for. If McCain is unpopular, but the Dem is loathed, then McCain wins, even though he is unpopular.

    And given Alaskans apparent fondness for gov't pork, I can't see a libertarian doing well there.

  • Kolohe||

    "2) Alaskan voters, all 470,000-odd of them,"

    Based on the 04 election it's closer to 300,000-odd of them."

    Unless you mean just eligible voters.

  • Untermensch||

    My home state needs an enema. Good riddance to Stevens and Young.

    The thing that kills Dems more than anything else in the state is gun rights. All it takes is some do-gooder who's only ever lived in a city making statements like "the only reason anyone would have a gun is to kill someone" (I heard this once) and the association of that with Dems and Alaskans run for the Republicans, as loathsome as they may be. That issue, more than any other, has determined Alaska's position as one of the reddest of states (I've lived in the other two that are as red as well: Indiana and Utah).

    And given Alaskans apparent fondness for gov't pork, I can't see a libertarian doing well there.



    Some Alaskans' fondness for pork. There is a very strong libertarian streak in the state, perhaps the strongest in any state.

    If a Dem candidate came along who had a credible record in support of gun rights, I could see Alaska going for that person.

    (In Alaska, if you're out of Anchorage or Fairbanks at all and see someone carrying a gun you don't worry, unless it's pointed at you, because you know it's against bears. One time when I was 18 I was camping with some friends and we had a shotgun along in case we ran into bears. When we came back from a hike, covered in mud, there was a nearby tour bus of Germans who all ran and hid behind thee bus. It took us a few minutes to realize that the silly fools were concerned about our gun. I'm sure they went home and told stories about the barbaric Alaskans who tote guns around all the time.)

  • ||

    I don't suppose we have any polling on what Alaskans think of Obama v. McCain, or even Hillary v. McCain, do we?

    There aren't enough people in Alaska to produce a meaningful sample of their opinion.

  • Elemenope||

    Neil --

    If Palin is as smart as you (and others) claim, she will almost assuredly not commit political career suicide by running on a shattered brand nationally.

    In fact, one might very well question the sanity of any career Republican politician who is willing to be the VP candidate this year.

  • ||

    David - what did Andre Marrou say, specifically? Was it because of the actions of LP candidates/officials, or what?

  • ||

    Elemenope,

    Obama and Clinton are any better?

  • svf||

    If Palin is as smart as you (and others) claim, she...

    ... and her unborn child ...

    ...will almost assuredly not commit political career suicide by running on a shattered brand nationally....

  • Kap||

    svf - She already gave birth. Sadly, the child has Down Syndrome.

  • svf||

    Kap... oh, didn't realize that. very sad... another huge reason to stay off the campaign trail and close to family, for sure.

  • ||

    Marrou is one to talk about the LP brand being ruined. Anyone who can grab ahold of Liberty Magazine's post-1992 general election issue will have quite an eyeful with regard to Marrou's campaign.

  • Elemenope||

    Obama and Clinton are any better?

    My gut feeling is *yes*, they are at least marginally better than McCain. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could be worse than permanent war.

    But I don't understand how you get that from me simply pointing out that Republicans will have to pray extra-hard to the non-existent God this year to pull out even a break-even in Congress. The Presidency is right out, and any vice-presidential hopeful who ties that around their neck is committing career suicide.

  • ||

    I don't know, Elemenope. Republicans are much more respectful to their failed candidates than Democrats. They even give them a second chance.

    Take a Bobby Jindal: he runs for the Vice Presidency, makes a good run of it, even gets some props for gallantry under fire, loses, goes back to Louisiana, has a couple of good terms there, and he's right there to run for the nomination in '12 or '16.

    Certainly, nobody is going to look at the 2008 Republican VP candidate and say "You did this to us!"

  • ||

    There is a very strong libertarian streak in the state, perhaps the strongest in any state.

    Then why do they keep sending some of the biggest pork-snorking influence-peddling slimeballs to Washington? Have they no shame?

  • ||

    Hey look everyone Weigel found a Daily Kos poll!!

    And it shows some crazy ass shit!!

  • ||

    My gut feeling is *yes*, they are at least marginally better than McCain. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could be worse than permanent war.

    The US did pretty good from 1950-1990....I could imagine much worse. For example: the USSR doing better then it did.

    Note: Ya I know we still have troops in Japan, Europe and South Korea so the 1990 ending date is not entirely accurate or even a real end date.

  • Elemenope||

    The US did pretty good from 1950-1990....I could imagine much worse. For example: the USSR doing better then it did.

    Allow me to clarify by stating what I thought would be an obvious corollary:

    Nothing would be worse than fighting a permanent war against an adversary that does not present any sort of existential threat.

    The Cold War was an entirely different situation than the one we find ourselves in today. And even then, though the expenditures were necessary, they were still lamentable.

  • Stephen||

    More importantly, could the Libertarians spoil Ron Paul's chances at...well...whatever it is that Ron Paul is trying to do?

  • ||

    My gut feeling is *yes*, they are at least marginally better than McCain. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could be worse than permanent war.

    A contrary view: the Iraq War is a temporary state of affair, though a real problem. Shiny new welfare programs will be vacuuming out the wallets of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    Although I loathe John McCain, this would be a very good time to have a split government, with both major suckfest parties having at least some foothold.

  • economist||

    "Nothing...is worse than permanent war."
    That's what the Russians thought in 1917.

  • ||

    The Cold War was an entirely different situation than the one we find ourselves in today. And even then, though the expenditures were necessary, they were still lamentable.

    You fail the LiberTarian litmus test.

  • John||

    A Democratic Presidential candidate hasn't cracked 40% in Alaska since 1968. Unless Barr were to get in the 15-20% range in Alaska, I can't see Obama winning up there.

  • CosmoPaleoGeoAnarchoLibertaria||

    We must progressively adhere to the constitution and abolish all taxes except for a tax on the unimproved value of land.

  • B||

    This primary season should have taught us three things: 1) Caucuses are worthless 2) Barack Obama has no chance in a state where the black population can fit in a Volkswagen 3) Polls commissioned by the Daily Kos, of all places. are probably about as valuable as the nuts from my shit.

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