Kelly Tshibaka, who is challenging Sen. Lisa Murkowski this year, says she has a clear shot at winning in November. Her pollster, Cygnal, says that:
- Tshibaka carries 84% of the Republican vote and leads with both men and women.
- On the final ranked-choice results, Tshibaka prevails by 2%.
- Tshibaka trounces Murkowski with both Trump Republicans and Traditional Republicans.
- A strong majority of undecided voters have an unfavorable opinion of Murkowski.
Alaskans will be using a confusing election system this year, brought to them by Ballot Measure 2. In the primary, all candidates go on the same ballot; Ballot Measure 2 did away with the Republican primary ballot that people could choose if they were registered Republicans or not registered with another party. This is now an open or “jungle” primary.
The top four vote-getters from that Aug. 16 election proceed to the November ballot. In that election, Alaskans rank their favorites 1-4 with a space for a write-in candidate.
If no candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. First-choice votes cast for the failed candidate are also eliminated, lifting the second choices indicated on those ballots into the first choice slot. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate reaches a 50+1 majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.
The voting system, which is vexing even the experts who try to explain it, was designed and pushed by Murkowski’s past campaign counsel Scott Kendall. The purpose for the scheme is to help Murkowski avoid a Republican primary, which she cannot win. As for the general election, Murkowski has never reached 50 percent in any of her wins since she first ran in 2004, which is why Tshibaka sees a path to victory.
In the scenarios tested, Cygnal says Tshibaka wins, even after the ranked-choice ballot goes through its machine-calculated redistribution of votes.
- According to the pollster, 87% of Alaska Republicans hold an unfavorable view of Murkowski.
- Independents voters prefer a Republican by 13%.
- Party intensity is much stronger for Republicans (+86%) than Democrats (+58%).
The poll was conducted March 14-16 among 500 Alaskans through phone, text and email-to-web.
Cygnal is a reputable firm that caters to Republican clients. The New York Times rated Cygnal the #1 most accurate polling firm in 2018. In the same year, the survey company FiveThirtyEight said Cygnal was the top GOP polling firm. In 2020 Cygnal called the most races correctly of any Republican shop in the nation.