Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alaska U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

Alaska U.S. Senate

July 28, 2010
97 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Red State (West)

Outlook: Safe Republican

As most know, the politics in Alaska have definitely not been boring the past several years, even though this race may be a bit of a foregone conclusion.

Eight years ago, longtime Republican Senator Frank Murkowksi was elected Governor and chose to appoint as his replacement in the Senate, his state legislator daughter Lisa Murkowksi. That was met with cries of nepotism and people in both parties tried to make the younger Murkowksi's stay in Washington D.C. a short one in 2004. She would however manage to win a full term in her own right against a touted ex-Governor in a battleground race in that year's general election.

While Lisa had begun to create her own distinct profile, the political fortunes for her father never really recovered and his Governorship was hampered by numerous issues. He finished third in the 2006 Republican primary, and Sarah Palin would go on to replace him. Divisions existed in the state's dominant Republican Party, and Palin and Senator Murkowksi were not perceived as very close, even after Palin returned to the state following her unsuccessful stint as the 2008 GOP Vice Presidential nominee. However, when Palin started a national PAC, she did donate money to Murkowski's campaign, in the wake of talk that the nationally prominent Governor might take on Murkowski in a 2010 Senate primary.

However, when Palin resigned as Governor last year, Murkowski had some unkind words for the woman who had defeated her father and recently, Palin surprised many by endorsing Murkowski little known primary challenger attorney Joe Miller. Since then, other conservative groups have jumped on board supporting Miller against the more moderate, pro-choice incumbent, but despite the influence that Palin has been having in Republican primaries in other states on behalf of conservative "Mama Grizzlies" and their male counterparts, Republicans in Alaska have grown accustomed to intra-party split and there seems to be little evidence that Murkowski will lose the primary. Incumbency and seniority remain important commodities for the politicians the state sends to Washington to get federal dollars, especially in the wake up the defeat of Senator Ted Stevens in 2008.

The eventual Republican nominee would be almost certain to defeat the Democrat who will emerge from the August primary. Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams should capture that nomination, though perennial gadfly candidate Frank Vondersaar has been his party's U.S. Senate nominee before, and if the race is really under the radar, could possibly win based on vague name recognition.

If for some reason, Miller shocks everyone and knocks off Murkowski in a primary, the race may get a brief second look, but it certainly appears that the Senator who was once derided for "inheriting" her seat from her father will continue what should be a long U.S. Senate career.

Murkowski campaign link:

2010 U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 0 D, 2 R
Predicted U.S. Senate Balance of Power thus far: 40 D, 25 R