On the Must Read Alaska Show on Wednesday, Alaska Survey Research pollster Ivan Moore talked with show host John Quick about all three of the statewide races and how voters are viewing the candidates.
He acknowledged the criticism of ranked choice voting, in that it threw Sen. Lisa Murkowski a lifeline. He admitted that she is the prime beneficiary of the open primary brought about by Ballot Measure 2 in 2020.
“She [Murkowski] would have had to go through a Republican primary and she would have had zero chance of winning that,” he said.
Moore said in he Senate race, Democrat candidate Pat Chesbro is likely to be eliminated second (after Republican Buzz Kelly is eliminated), and nearly all of her votes will go to Murkowski. A negligible number of Chesbro voters will pick Kelly Tshibaka second.
“The one thing we can say for certain right now as we approach the general [election] in November is that it will go to a Murkowski-Tshibaka final,” he said. And the particular poll he just completed, the result “was like 57-43 to Murkowski.”
Moore said he has polled the Senate race five times in the past year, and Murkowski has won every single time “and it’s ranged from the … 52-48 and 53-47 kind of ball park. Up to 57-43, 58-42. So I see Murkowski as a pretty strong favorite.”
But he said it’s not impossible for Republican Kelly Tshibaka to win. But he referred to the online betting market called PredictIt.org, where people who are betting actual money are making Murkowski the 80% favorite. On PredictIt, that means Tshibaka has a one in five chance of winning.
“She could win,” Moore said of Tshibaka. “Don’t get me wrong. But she’s the underdog.”
Moore said that Murkowski, since losing the primary to Joe Miller in 2010, has moved gradually left to the place where she “has become a pariah amongst the people on the right. For the longest time, her support came from the middle.” He described a bell curve with moderates at the top of the curve. For a while, she was most popular among moderates and no-party people — the swing voters.
After the Obamacare repeal vote in 2017, when Murkowski voted against repealing the controversial Affordable Health Care Act, along with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, “that was it, as far as the conservative right was concerned,” Moore said. There’s nothing she can do to win those voters back.
He went on to say that if he analyzed her record, or “cross tabs” without her name attached, he would have to guess that Murkowski is a Democrat. In fact, he would guess “100% that is a Democrat.”
Moore said Murkowski’s favorable rating is highest on the Left these days, with very low support from the right, and some support from the moderates.
Murkowski is going to have a tough time, now that she is so clearly aligned with the Left, he said.
“You’ve got to obey your master and she’s going to have a tough time … keeping her support base happy and at the same time not becoming a bit of a pariah in her caucus in the Senate,” he said.
Moore said that conservatives should give Ranked Choice Voting another look, because he believes it benefits Republicans in Alaska.
“And if you look at it just objectively, instant runoff is good for Republicans in Alaska because there’s more Republican voters, there are therefore more Republican candidates, and so Republicans are always much more likely to be going against each other in races and splitting the vote. And ranked choice voting prevents these situations.”
The 1994 gubernatorial race was a classic example, he said, where ranked choice voting would have advantaged Republicans.
Republican Jack Coghill pulled away a chunk of vote that otherwise would have gone to the Republican, Moore said. In that race, Democrat Tony Knowles narrowly defeated Republican Jim Campbell and Alaskan Independence Party’s Jack Coghill. If Alaska had ranked choice voting back then, Knowles would not have won.
“And those kinds of situations are going to happen much more for Republicans than Democrats,” he said. “Democrats can barely scare up one candidate in each race. Let alone having two. There’s not really a functional Green Party anymore to siphon off Democrat votes.”
He also believes it’s good public policy and disagrees that it’s too confusing for average voters.
“No, it isn’t [confusing]. It’s not rocket science,” he said.