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HomeNewsElectionsAlaska Senate Race Rating And Analysis Bodes Bad For Begich

Alaska Senate Race Rating And Analysis Bodes Bad For Begich


Incumbent Sen. Mark Begich (D)

The Alaska Senate race is the first in what will be a succession of expanded analysis released for the PPD 2014 Senate Map Predictions.

As long as the Republican Party avoids an extraordinary divisive primary between Joe Miller, the Tea Party upset victor in the primary who went on to lose to incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski in her historic write-in campaign in the general election, and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, then this seat should be a prime GOP turnover.

That’s not to say that Miller couldn’t unseat Begich, but at the moment it certainly looks like Treadwell has a better shot. The chance of Miller receiving that nomination is examined in “Why Joe Miller Could Pull Off An Upset Against The GOP Establishment, Again,” which is far better than the media gives him credit for, but even Alaskan Republicans view him in a relatively unfavorable light. In a May survey conducted for the Tea Party Leadership Fund, Harper Polling found he had a 34/49 percent favorable/unfavorable rating among potential GOP primary voters, though as I will get into shortly, polling Alaska is misleading.

Recently, the Combat Veterans For Congress PAC endorsed Joe Miller, who is a combat veteran, which will no doubt help his bid. The group was fairly successful in their endorsements in 2010 and 2012.

Still, this is very good news for Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who made his bid for the seat official early. Treadwell has already attacked his GOP opponent, saying “I believe I don’t scare people. Joe does sometimes.” Former Natural Resources Commissioner and Attorney General Dan Sullivan has decided to enter the race, and he or Miller may be able to cast Treadwell as the establishment out-of-towner – after all, he is a Connecticut native. Still, the Treadwell family name has solid Alaskan credentials and is well-liked, though Sullivan — a former Marine — will likely continue to hammer him on it.

While others, such as Air Force Veteran John Jaramillo are running — whom Joe Miller beat out for the endorsement along with Sullivan — they have yet to gain any traction. The list also includes Kathleen Tonn, pro-life activist.

Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Mark Begich is trying desperately hold onto this seat, actually describing himself as “something of a Rockefeller Republican,” and has also been a target for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg because of his “Nay” vote on the Toomey-Manchin bill. Begich recently released a radio ad touting his own opposition to administration policies affecting Alaska, including pushing for more oil drilling and mining.

PPD changed this rating due to a variety of factors, but the final draw has been the failed ObamaCare rollout and broken promises. Begich’s own comments give you an idea of how much trouble he believes he is in. When selling ObamaCare Begich said, “If you got an insurance plan now, you like it, you keep it,” now he sings this tune: “Do I have issues with ObamaCare? Yes.”

Other pundits — well — are wrong about this race. Any reliance on polling in Alaska is fool-hearted, particularly because polling conducted showing Begich leading Treadwell occurred before the shutdown, before the ObamaCare disaster, and was by the Democratic pollster, Public Policy Polling. Polling in Alaska is notoriously inaccurate, especially from PPP, but polling also overestimated Begich when he first won election in 2008 by a measly 3,953 votes just one week after his GOP opponent was convicted on corruption charges, which were later tossed out.

A few more tidbits on polling in Alaska: Just one pollster had Lisa Murkowski ahead in 2004 and one pollster had her beating Miller in the 2010 GOP primary by 32 points. Similarly, all but one of the surveys conducted for the 2010 Alaska Senate race in the general election showed Miller winning the 3-way contest, with the final CNN/ORC poll having them tied at 37 percent. PPP, which may pundits are overly reliant upon, ridiculously found the Democratic candidate tied with Murkowski at 30 percent, while Miller enjoyed a significant 7 percent advantage on both. Obviously, she turned out to be successful in her historic write-in campaign.

So, why did I go on and on regarding Alaska polling? Because I will, no doubt, catch flack for calling this race “Leans Republican” before the GOP has even decided upon a candidate. I will make adjustments if I must, but Republican primary voters more than outnumber Democratic voters 2 to 1, and even if Joe Miller is the candidate, Mark Begich is in deep, deep trouble. In fact, he never should have won the race in the first place, and by no measure of logic could you justify a “Toss-Up” rating if the election were held today.

In a deeply red state with a PVI of R+12, which Mitt Romney easily won by 13 points, this would be a “Safe Republican” seat, but it’s not yet due to the potential for a toxic primary. Nevertheless, Begich boasts defeating scandal-laden Senator Ted Stevens in 2008 — a Democratic wave election no less — by under just 4,000 votes.

Voter registration in the state has moved more Republican from 2010 to 2014, as of Jan. 3, 2013, with registered Republicans outnumbering registered Democrats by nearly 2 to 1. And this trend has just gotten worse over the last year. According to Gallup, Alaska is now the 6th most conservative state in the union, with Democrats losing ground by 20 points over the last year alone. President Obama has an abysmal approval rating of around 33 percent in the state, which is too low for Begich to simply avoid campaigning with the president.

Alaska has a large number of undeclared and nonaffiliated registered voters, but save for the 2004 election that resulted in a slight Republican victory thanks to the nil popularity of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s father as governor, as well as the wave Begich road in on in 2008, they have broken more and more for Republicans each cycle.

And the Democrat now faces a national political environment in 2014 that favors Republicans. This race can easily begin moving farther to the right, literally any day, but we will have to wait and see until a few developments, which include but are not limited to post-shutdown/ObamaCare rollout polling, and GOP primary events.

View Polling Below Or Return To 2014 Senate Map

Polling Data

Begich vs. Treadwell

Poll Date Sample Begich (D) Treadwell (R) Spread
PPP (D)** 1/30 – 2/1 850 RV 43 37 Begich +6
Hays Research (D) 8/14 – 8/14 388 LV 50 39 Begich +11
PPP (D) 7/25 – 7/28 890 RV 44 40 Begich +4
PPP (D) 2/4 – 2/5 1129 RV 47 39 Begich +8
Harper (R) 1/29 – 1/30 1157 LV 44 34 Begich +10

Begich vs. Sullivan

Poll Date Sample Begich (D) Sullivan (R) Spread
PPP (D)** 1/30 – 2/1 850 RV 41 37 Begich +4
PPP (D) 7/25 – 7/28 890 RV 46 39 Begich +7
PPP (D) 2/4 – 2/5 1129 RV 47 41 Begich +6

Written by

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

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