If the week’s political events showed anything, it’s how unloved Sen. Lisa Murkowski is by many, perhaps a majority, of Alaska voters. Murkowski showed up at an Americans for Prosperity event in Anchorage where people were filling up their tanks for half price, compliments of AFP.
The motorists and volunteers who observed Murkowski’s presence at the event were furious. People in line for the $2.38 gas wanted to know what Murkowski was doing at the event; they grew suspicious that this was really a stealth Murkowski campaign event. Keyboard warriors went to town on Murkowski and openly criticized AFP for allowing her to attend.
The truth is that Americans for Prosperity Alaska had invited both Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan to come and talk to real Alaskans, not just spend all their days with the high-and-mighties sitting in the conferences and board rooms trying to divvy up the federal broadband money coming from the government printing shop. AFP would have invited Congressman Don Young, if he was still alive. In this case, only Murkowski showed up, and it went downhill from there.
The lesson is clear: Murkowski makes everyday Alaskans mad, and makes Republican voters the maddest.
The senator, although she has a significant war chest, has headwinds in the primary on Aug. 16. She appears unworried, but her performance in the past two primaries is a warning light on the dash: In 2016, her last general election, she won just 44.4% of the vote, becoming the first senator in U.S. history to win three elections to the U.S. Senate without winning a majority.
Murkowski, the pundits say, is a shoo-in in November because she is protected by Ballot Measure 2’s ranked choice voting scheme and because she doesn’t face a Republican primary next week.
Republican analysts also say, however, she will not be in first place in the primary, and that as a sitting senator, it will look bad for her. She has Republican Party-endorsed Kelly Tshibaka on her right, and Pat Chesbro and Edgar Blatchford as her leading Democrat opponents.
Overall, there are 19 candidates on the Senate jungle primary ballot. Eight of them are Republicans and three are Democrats. This makes it hard for any Republican candidate to have a solid showing, but it’s hardest for Murkowski, who should be able to get over 44%. If she does not, it could be embarrassing for her campaign.
Some strategists now think there is a high chance Tshibaka will come in first on the primary ballot, and Murkowski may even come in third, behind Chesbro, the Democrat who has the Democrat Party’s endorsement. The Libertarian, Sean Thorne, may be the fourth-place winner for the November ballot.
The August primary is one in which super voters show up. It’s usually a low-turnout election because it’s fishing season, wood-gathering season, berry harvesting season and the final parties of summer.
Tshibaka’s base is invigorated. This is the best chance they have of replacing Murkowski.
Other pundits believe that the race becomes much tougher in November, when Murkowski expects to do well in ranked choice voting, with people who mark Chesbro first marking Murkowski second to give her the 50+1 she needs.
A Democrat-funded group called Protect the Vote, has now said the quiet part out loud: Chesbro can’t win in November. In its recent email, the group asked people to donate to its “Ally Protection Fund.” Here’s what else the group said:
“An Alaska Survey Research poll is showing Lisa Murkowski leading her Trump-endorsed opponent, Kelly Tshibaka, by only 4%.
“Yes, only 4%. This is not good. The Senator has proven herself to be a critical ally to Democrats. Because of her bipartisan support she now finds herself in a tough re-election fight against a well-funded MAGA-first opponent.”
The group, Protect the Vote, knows Murkowski can be easily linked to Biden, and Biden is very unpopular in Alaska.
“Donald Trump will do anything to see Lisa Murkowski lose. That is why we need to step in. We may not agree on every issue, but Democrats need her commonsense leadership in the U.S. Senate,” Protect the Vote says.
“Donate to our Ally Protection Fund today. Lisa Murkowski needs our help. Democrats need her to hold this Senate seat against her far-right opponent. Your leadership contribution will immediately go towards providing her with early television ads, digital ads, billboards, mailers, and boots on the ground,” the group pleads with donors.
Then it goes all-in to explain that Murkowski is a Democrat ally:
Protect the Vote PAC describes itself as a “Democratic organization on the front lines of providing critical support to federal campaigns for President, U.S. Senate and U.S. House.”
Murkowski’s coalition has always been a combination of nonpartisans, undeclared voters, libertarians and Democrats, according to Cook Political Report, which points out that Murkowski is financially stronger heading into the final stretch of the primary. As of July 27, Murkowski had $5.3 million cash on hand. Tshibaka had just over $808,000 cash on hand.
Murkowski has spent $1.1 million on television ads, and the superPAC, Alaskans for Lisa, has spent $1.2 million on TV.
Tshibaka has only spent $174,000 for television.
Senate Leadership Fund money, which is divvied up by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, will add another $7.3 million for advertising for Murkowski, highlighting her seniority and ability to get money for Alaska.