06 November 2014

The 2014 mid-terms are now history / a short look at Alaska

I took a long break from this politics blog...

but will be back, using this blog almost daily now for the next years, leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

In about 2-3 months, I will be doing a pretty major analysis of how the pollsters did in 2014. Though most of them picked the correct winner in 8 of the 10 marquee races for the US-Senate, the margins for many, many pollsters were just miserably off, and this time, sharply to the LEFT instead of to the RIGHT.  

Instead of doing finger pointing, which I am sure the pundits are going to do, I will simply wait until the final canvasses come out and then I will do an analysis as I did in February, 2013, for the US-Presidential election (Obama vs. Romney).

But it's not as if I didn't follow the 2014 polls, at least for the epic battle for control of the US-Senate. I did, and essentially blogged the weekly aggregates from RCP here:

2014 battle for control of the US Senate

That study was started on August 11, 2014.

There will be lots of things to look at, but one thing I find especially interesting, in light of electoral history, is what is going on in the great state of Alaska.

Statistically, the state is not as red as it was, for sure.

2000: Bush 43 (R) wins Alaska by +30.95 (+31)
2004: Bush 43 (R) wins Alaska by +25.55 (+25.6) - shift of 5.4 to the Democratic Party
2008: McCain (R) wins Alaska by +21.54 (+21.5) - shift of 4.1 to the Democratic Party
2012: Romney (R) wins Alaska by +13.99 (+14) - shift of 7.5 to the Democratic Party

So, over twelve years, at the national level, the GOP margin in Alaska has shrunk from +31 to +14. The margin, though still a landslide margin similar to Obama's wins in Oregon and Washington State, is less than half of what it once was. Romney's +14 margin in Alaska is the leanest margin for a Republican in a two-way race in this state since 1968, where Humprey really surprised and came dangerously close to Nixon. And those four presidential cycles all overlap the last five Senatorial cycles, including this one, where interesting things have happened since 2002.

A little known piece of history about both Alaska and Hawaii: there were intense fights on the floor of the US Senate about both of these states, because the Democrats at that time were just sure that Hawaii was going to be a "Republican" state and the Republicans of that day were just sure that Alaska was going to be a "Democratic" state, exactly the opposite of how things turned out, according to our current labels for "Democrat" and "Republican". But in the 50's, much of the Democratic Party was far more Conservative than many elements in the Republican party and in the 50's, much of the Republican Party was far more Liberal than many elements in the Democratic Party. This is why BOTH states were admitted to the Union in the same year, with Alaska being admitted on January 3, 1959, the very day that the newly elected 86th congress, with a Democratic majority in the Senate -after Eisenhower's party just lost 13 seats in the 1958 mid-terms, the DEMS also added both Alaska seats and the DEMS moved to a filibuster proof majority of 64-34, which then grew to 65-35 once Hawaii's two Senators were seated - and Hawaii joined the Union on August 21, 1959, therefore giving both states enough time to organize themselves for the next presidential election. In this way, a sort of "balance of power" was kept in the EC, at least in the minds of the politicians of that day, very similar to the admission of Michigan and Arkansas to the Union in 1836-1837.

1990: Ted Stevens (R) wins a seat by +34.04 (+34) - a blowout
1992: Frank Murkowski (R) wins his first Senatorial by +14.64 (+15.6)
1996: Ted Stevens (R) wins re-election by +64.19 (+64.2) - absolute blowout
1998: Frank Murkowski (R) wins a Seat by +54.77 (+55.8) - absolute blowout
2002: Ted Stevens (R) wins re-election by +67.66 (+67.7) - absolute blowout
2004: Lisa Murkowski (R) wins re-election by only +3.03% (+3) against Tony Knowles
2008: Mark Begich (D) unseats Ted Stevens, by only +1.34% (+1.3)
2010: Lisa Murkowsi, as a "write-in", wins re-election, by +4.01 (+4)
2014: Right now,it sure looks as if Sullivan (R) has won and the current statistic is +3.60 (+3.6)

So, after 2002, Alaska went from being an unbreakable +30 points (or way more) solid RED state at the Senatorial level, to a low single-digit win state, now for four cycles in a row. It's also been a minority win state for those four cycles, partly due to Alaska's long tradition of a pretty steep 3rd and 4th party vote.

The Gubernatorial-scene in Alaska has been much more mixed all along:

1998: Tony Knowles (D), wins by 33.01% (+33). Barred from seeking a third term, he ran for Senate against Lisa Murkowski in 2004 and narrowly lost.
2002: Frank Murkowski (who was a sitting Senator) wins by +15.15% (+15.2)
2006: Sarah Palin (R) wins by +7.36% (+7.3)
2010: Sean Parnell, who was Sarah Palin's Lt. Governor and who assumed office after she resigned, wins by +21.39% (+21.4)
2014: Right now, it looks like Independent/Unity Ticket Bill Walker by +1.41 (+1.4)

No matter how you look at it, at all three major levels, two of which are federal, Alaska has gone from being a rock-solid double digit win state pre-Millenium to a single digit-state or sharply reduced double-digit state (presidential cycles) in the new Millenium.

Something is going on with the Alaskan electorate and the historical stats from 12 years back that statement up.

And in one point, I think that former Gov. Sarah Palin was very right: Alaska had indeed by ruled by a few select dynasties for a pretty long time, above all else, the Youngs and the Murkowskis. And the Begiches and the Knowles.