Does a Trump endorsement help or hurt this year?

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With former President Donald Trump endorsing three different statewide races in Alaska this year, some political analysts wonder if it will help or hurt the Alaska candidates he has chosen to back: Gov. Mike Dunleavy, senatorial candidate Kelly Tshibaka, and congressional candidate Sarah Palin.

A Trump endorsement may hurt some, and may help others in the Alaska races.

“My audience worships Trump and they are expressing disappointment in him now, because they are not happy about this (Palin endorsement),” said Dan Fagan, host of the morning radio show on News Radio 650 KENI. Other political observers in Alaska echoed that sentiment — as much as they like Trump, this was not a good move.

Trump was an early fan of Gov. Dunleavy, who was elected in 2018 after former Gov. Bill Walker’s campaign cratered in spectacular fashion during the last few weeks.

Dunleavy came into office during the aftershocks of a major earthquake — a magnitude 7.1 that wrecked homes and roads in Southcentral Alaska on Nov. 30, 2018. Wildfires raged across 2.9 million acres of the state in 2019, and then in 2020, the Made-in-China virus reached the USA. The first case in Alaska was diagnosed in March of 2020. Dunleavy also faced a recall effort put together by some of Walker’s top surrogates, including Scott Kendall, who is also one of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s top insiders and campaign advisers.

Trump stood by Dunleavy through thick and thin and supported Alaska-friendly policies to help the state recover from the Walker-Obama debacles, such as approving a road from King Cove to the Cold Bay air strip, and opening up limited logging in the Tongass National Forest and more leases for oil on Alaska’s North Slope. While Murkowski’s top advisers back in Alaska tried to destroy Dunleavy, he had the ear of the president, who met with Alaska’s governor on several occasions. In fact, Dunleavy met with Trump more times than any sitting governor.

In a state that voted 53 percent for Trump in 2020, an endorsement from Trump seemed like a sure bet for Dunleavy.

Then came Trump’s endorsement for Kelly Tshibaka, the upstart candidate who is taking on one of the most powerful people in the U.S. Senate — Lisa Murkowski. Murkowski is unloved by her own Alaska Republican Party, which has asked her to not run as a Republican. The party has endorsed Tshibaka. Murkowski’s approval rating among conservatives in Alaska is lower than Joe Biden’s ratings, and Trump’s approval by conservatives is still pretty strong. He won Alaska by 53 percent of the vote in 2020. A Trump endorsement of Tshibaka gave her the needed name recognition to rocket to national attention and get on Fox News more than a few times.

“Trump’s support of Alaska Republican Kelly Tshibaka, who is challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in an open primary, doesn’t look promising either,” wrote Alexander Bolton in The Hill on Monday. “Murkowski has more than six times as much cash on hand as her rival and felt comfortable enough about her reelection to vote for President Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court.”

Suddenly, Trump did something odd — he qualified his support for Gov. Dunleavy, saying he would only back him if Dunleavy did not back Murkowski.

Bolton notes that Trump’s backing of candidates is having a less-than-stellar record across the country. Trump backed former Sen. David Perdue, a Republican, in the Georgia governor’s race, yet incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, also a Republican, is far ahead in the polls and may be in landslide territory for the May 24 primary.

Trump’s endorsement of U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania (no relation to Alaska’s former governor) was a bust when Parnell dropped out after being accused of domestic violence.

Trump’s endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks in Alabama went sideways when Brooks started tanking in the polls, causing Trump to take back his endorsement.

And Trump has now endorsed J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” causing heartburn with Republicans in Ohio, where the Senate seat is in play. Conservatives prefer former Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who currently leads in the polls for the Republican primary.

“The basic problem is he has a bad record empirically,” said Justin Buchler, a professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, according to The Hill. “The people that he endorses don’t have a particularly great winning record.”  

In Alaska, Trump endorsed Sarah Palin for Congress, an endorsement that is already having the effect of fracturing the Republican Party. Trump has a way of getting Republicans to fight with each other, and both he and Palin run hard against what they see as the party establishment. Ironically, it was that party establishment that boosted her candidacy in 2006, when she won the primary for governor against Gov. Frank Murkowski. That Republican establishment also supported Trump in 2016 and 2020.

“He is divisive. He incites Republicans to fight with each other instead of the Left. He’s not trying to make peace with the party,” said one Republican Party leader.

Palin, who has just a 31 percent approval rating from Alaskans, polls even lower than President Joe Biden.

If Trump does come to Alaska this summer for a rally — and he has promised to do so for candidate Tshibaka — he would demand one big event that includes Tshibaka, Palin, and Dunleavy. With Palin and Trump on the stage, Dunleavy and Tshibaka could be overshadowed by the star power of the former president and Palin, the most famous person in Alaska history. The media would focus all of its attention on Palin, with news reporters flying in from across the country to cover the spectacle of Trump-Palin.

For campaigns, this will be the trickiest of situations to pull off for the other Republican candidates, who rightfully don’t want to be in another campaign’s shadow.

Alaska political observers say that Trump’s endorsement of Palin actually hurts Tshibaka the most, because it has taken away some of the focus on what was the most watched race in the country — Murkowski vs. Tshibaka. If that is true, then Trump’s backing of Palin, who only has a 31 percent approval rating among Alaskans, would weaken his attack on the person he most wants to see gone from the Senate — Murkowski.

As for Trump’s own goals to return to the White House in 2024, these endorsements and the outcomes may provide some of the most important data of all to his team: Is Trump still viable as presidential material?

23 COMMENTS

  1. It will help?
    Republicans and Conservatives are going to be on a rampage this fall ……..both loudly and not so loudly. Just watch.

    • Oh, Sarah, sweet Sarah, you are so right! As much as Alaskan men pride themselves as being independent and “manly,” they are neither. First it was the mining industry, then the canned salmon industry, followed by the timber and oil industries. As in any frontier society the men brag about their manhood while waiting to be told what to do or “hop to” when so ordered! That’s the manhood that we’re dealing with. By and large, they can’t compose a complex sentence let alone write a coherent paragraph! Why would we expect them to do anything but what they are told. Trump says crap, and they crap. Alaskan “men” are what Trump calls losers and suckers.

      Yes, sweet heart, the “men” are waiting to be told what to do. “On a rampage,” now you have me laughing. Just you wait and see!

    • Frank, I am surprised that you would use the non-standard synonym, “irregardless”. The use of a double negative is generally taboo but forgivable if you are referencing ” Daddies Little Princess”. If you are affirming that the candidate who can claim, ” I’m not Lisa” will do the most for Alaska, despite Donald Trump’s endorsement, then well stated my good Man!

  2. It will hurt. As much as Trump’s policy was amazing, being a decent human being matters to far more people than even direct personal benefit of policy and platform.

    • Matt, totally agree with you, that is why the morons, err voters, some 81 million of them went for the King of Corruption, one fondly known as Hunter’s Daddy.
      Yeah, people are really informed about the Candidates they vote for…

  3. Better question: Do political endorsements really matter or make the slightest difference or impact on anybody, at all, any time, from anyone?
    .
    I know that for me, they are like advertisements: instantly tuned out as irrelevant.

  4. We must vote our gut. Trump is not really in tune to Alaska politics, although he knows enough to support anyone against Lisa. And Sarah has supported him in her rock- star mode, but Trump has never met Nick. I’m sure he would support him if he knew him as I do.

  5. Trump has a loyal base because he was loyal to them. This is never been about a love of the man in a vacuum or a cult of personality or the messianic complex that Obama voters were enslaved to; the love of this man came because of his loyalty to the base and the issues and principles they supported. Anyone, including Trump, who loses sight of that, is missing the point. He won 53 in ‘20 and would probably get near 60 if it were held today—but the same people voting for him will vote for Dunleavy, Begich, and Tshibaka, with or without his stamp of approval. Murk has a lot of money but this isn’t the tuned out independents and establishment base GOP of the 2010 race. Tshibaka has a solid chance, even with the RCV. Dunleavy is a grown up, and Begich is the least opportunistic in the field. The only real wildcard is how much cheating is allowed, paid for, encouraged and subsidized, by the establishment, special interests, and Mrs Gail Fenumiai.

  6. Regardless Trump, it may not even matter if the people are reminded how badly Biden and DC democrats are performing. It’s being guessed democrats will likely lose the House and Senate because of the White House. If Alaskans can’t acknowledge America had a brighter future under Trump, then the Trump skeptics need a new heart.

    • Then Trump should endorse every radical leftist Democrat running for Congress or Senate, killing their chances while sending each one of them into terminal TDS!

  7. I think most conservative Alaskans are independent thinkers and will not blindly take orders, even from a man of the stature of President Trump

  8. RINO Mitch McConnell isn’t backing down in his standoff with Donald Trump.

    On Monday, the Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with McConnell, announced that it had booked more than $7 miIlion worth of ad time in Alaska as GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski tries to fend off a challenge from Kelly Tshibaka, who has been endorsed by the former President. (The group also reserved ad time in six Senate battleground states.)

  9. A endorsement for Sarah from Trump will help her as an endorsement from Trump will help others.
    Just because the mouths of the followers of Tuckerman Babcock cannot stand Palin does not mean the rest of us have to follow suit. What a paradox it must be for the Red talking heads. On the Federal Senate side you want Trump, yet on the Federal House side you condemn Trump for his choice.
    The Big question for me is simple. Who is Begich? I read he is from Chugiak. Would not know because Begich is a nobody out here. No record of any involvement in anything local. Nothing.
    So in summation Alaskans are suppose to trust a nobody who choose not to lower himself to local politics as a stepping stone to higher offices. Hummm sounds like Al Gross, a guy with a familiar Alaskan last name running without prior commitments to volunteer public service. No thanks.

    • Joe, Babcock isn’t alone in his disapproval of our pretty little former Guv. You see Joe, many of us have long memories and we recall that she was, well, to put it nicely, FECKLESS as our Governor, sorry Joe. She is however good at seeking attention. It’s the getting attention that drives our Pretty Palin lady of Wasilla. Oh sure, Sarah can spout a good line now and again, but God forbid she were ever elected and actually had to work to make something happen! Sarah will be the the Republican equivalent to that A.O.C. lady from New York. Ineffective and ill informed, unable to work with others and all the while in possession of a short attention span. Remember we are electing the peoples representative not someone we want on a reality T.V. show. There is a difference.

      On the other hand the kid, Nick III has a record of working with people and dare I say a bigger shovel full of grey matter between the ears then the Trump endorsed candidate for this office.

  10. All this is a moot point unless we can guarantee non corrupted voting. Remember will still have mail in voting, Juneau and Anchorage have a tied in computer system, and Juneau has its secret building in which votes are tabulated.

  11. President Trump tends to give people generous trust at the outset. He is thankful for our economic systems that used to provide reward for merit generously. He’d like to keep the economic opportunities for all American families. The agents for international bankers have poked at their watch and decided it’s Americas turn to suffer because “they” said so. Americans had only an illusion of an education. But they’ll sense he has their best interests and hopes in mind. NO ONE ELSE ON EARTH AT THIS TIME DOES.

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