Thursday, August 26, 2010


We could have seen Alaska from our houses

As Lisa Murkowski fights for her political life in Alaska, the question being thrown around the blogosphere is "could we have seen it coming"? I'll be honest in saying that I made a mistake a political analyst should never make; I took the common political wisdom at its word. Had I (or anyone) investigated the issue at any length, it would have been VERY clear that Joe Miller was closing faster than a Ferrari on a Buick Century. Why?

1. Despite what most in the media are throwing around, there were polls showing Miller gaining ground. This past Tuesday The Wall Street Journals' John Fund (who deserves a heck of a lot of credit for staying on the story) noted "Internal polls taken for her campaign show Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller closing the gap". A publicly released RT Nielson poll conducted a week before the primary among 300 likely voters on behalf of the Tea Party Express showed Murkowski's 37 point edge a month before the primary (in a Dittman Research poll) dropping to only 12 points (47-35). Most in the press seemed to ignore the poll because of the poll's sponsor and a lack of disclosure about the poll's methodology, but it now appears as if the poll was correct.

2. Murkowski's campaign's actions seemed more like a campaign in trouble than a campaign gliding to victory. A day before the primary an article by the Alaska Dispatch's Amanda Coyne noted "things seem to be changing... there seems to be something in the way that [Murkowski's] responding [to Miller's advertisements] that bespeaks nervousness." The campaign was releasing advertisement on top of advertisement, as if nothing they threw at Miller was sticking. As Coyne pointed out "instead of using her air time to take on Miller for wanting to privatize social security and Medicare, say, or questioning how his fiscal hawkishness will jive with Alaska's taste for pork, or even talking about the things she has done in D.C., she's spending it defending herself..."

3. More than a few Alaskan insiders believed that Murkowski was on the ropes. The aforementioned Republican Pollster Dave Dittman warned the day before the primary that he would not be "shocked" by a Miller victory. Yet, many in the national press only decided to cite Dittman's final poll, not his final words.

Now, I am not suggesting that Miller victory was evident (as it still is not with votes still being counted), but I would say that if analysts (including myself) had actually done some research we would have thrown out a lot more qualifiers when speaking about an "impending Murkowski victory".

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