First in a Series: Alabama and Alaska

This is the first in a series of diary entries analyzing races around the country as I see it here in good old Jersey.  Today, I will discuss the states of Alabama and Alaska.  If anyone in these states would like to add to or modify or clarify, or even disagree with my takes, then please feel free to do so.

Alabama is a safe Republican state with a Republican Governor, two Senators and five of seven Congressmen.  Generally speaking, even the Democrats of Alabama skew to the right, particularly on fiscal issues which is what the election of 2010 is all about.  So as the most recent polls show, Richard Shelby will be returned to Washington for another 6 years and Robert Bentley will be the new Republican Governor and at worst, the Congressional delegation will remain 5-2 Republican.

In fact, three Republican incumbents are running unopposed- the 1st, 4th, and 6th Districts- while a fourth, Mike Ross in the 3rd District, is clearly safe according to all pundits.  in the open Republican 5th District, Republican Mo Brooks leads by 18 points in the polls and this district will remain in Republican hands.  That leaves the 2nd and 7th Districts.  Forget the 7th where Artur Davis appears the emocratic shoo-in.  Thus the only question left in Alabama is whether the Republicans will send five or six Congressmen to the House in January.  A Martha Roby victory over Democratic incumbent Bobby Bright would be icing on the cake.  Bright currently leads in the polls by 9 points.  Is Bright vulnerable?  Yes.  Will he prevail?  Probably.

Alaska is also considered a red state and when push comes to shove, it cannot be denied.  From everything I have read about Alaska politics, it is somewhat schizophrenic.  While proud of their frontier independence, they are likewise dependent on the largesse of Washington.  A lot of that “bridge to nowhere” crap we heard from Palin in 2008 is indicative of this fact.  Ted Stevens was a popular Senator because he brought home the bacon.  So it is kind of weird that in an election cycle dominated by the TEA Party and reigning in Obama’s spending spree, Alaska is, in reality, dependent upon Alaska’s continued spending.

Second, despite her surprise resignation as Governor and the general Democratic interference against her at the state level, this is the home state of Sarah Palin, arguably the most recognizable Republican nationally.  Her fingerprints are all over Alaska politics.  Don Young, the at-large Republican Congressman, has her support.  She supported Joe Miller over Lisa Murkowski and prevailed.  To many in the lower 48, Palin is sometimes viewed as an embarrassment and certainly a lightning rod.  But to Alaskans, she is something else which sort of illustrates the schizophrenic nature of politics in Alaska.  It is as if they have both a chip on their collective shoulders tempered by a collective inferiority complex.  Perhaps, it is due to their distance from the remainder of the country.  Hawaii is another example, except they are as blue as Alaska is red.

So there is no doubt that Sean Parnell will be the Governor and Don Young will be re-elected to Congress.  Thus far, the polls bear out that Joe Miller will be the new Republican Senator from Alaska.  He leads by seven points in the polls- relatively close, but that should change.  And that “change” is the write-in campaign of Lisa Murkowski.  Before Republicans get all bent out of shape over this decision, it is highly doubtful this tactic will result in her re-election or necessarily hurt Joe Miller’s chances.  So far, she has lost her leadership position in the Republican caucus as the GOP considers her removal from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  They have sent the message and personally, I feel removal from the committee would be overkill.  To paraphrase Machiavelli: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.  In the end, is Murkowski really an “enemy?”

I suspect that Murkowski’s insurgent campaign will actually work to the detriment of the Democrat- Scott MacAdams much in the same way that the Crist independent bid in Florida is working to the detriment of Kendrick Meeks and the advantage of Marco Rubio.  The dynamics are different, but the results are the same.  Whereas the results in Florida are dictated by an internal schism among Democrats- had Meek lost the primary, they would have drifted into the Crist column- Alaska is decidedly more homogeneously Republican than Florida.

Murkowski certainly has the name recognition, but Miller has the party label.  Hence, that essentially marginalizes MacAdams and the election becomes a repeat of the Republican primary- Murkowski versus Miller.  However,  this time, the vote will not be as close because of that party label for Miller whereas Murkowski is a write-in candidate.  She does not even get a line on the ballot.  Therefore, in a state as deeply red as Alaska, the odds are clearly against Murkowski.  And in the absolutely rare chance she does prevail against the odds, Murkowski would caucus with Republicans.  Again, this is unlike the dynamics in Florida where the Crist split from the Republican Party appears to be absolute.  With regards to Murkowski, again, the Republican leadershipin Washington have sent the requisite shot over her bow.  Removing her from the Energy Committee would be overkill and unnecessary.  That will be done by the voters of Alaska in November.  If you must view her as an enemy, the words of Machiavelli again should be heeded.