Aug 25, 2010

Every Wednesday, Fix blogger Chris Cillizza discusses the latest primary results, Congress, the Obama administration and the world of politics. Today: Election results from the last primaries of the summer: Arizona, Alaska, Florida, Vermont and Oklahoma.

What. A. Night.

Let's get to it.

If Joe Miller pulls off a Repulican primary upset, do you think this increases the chances that Democratic Scott McAdams might win the general election? (Boy, when I read how few votes it takes to win an election for a Congressional seat in Alaska....about the same number of votes it takes to determine a STATE legislative seat on the east coast!)

I am hesitant to say "no chance" because, well, Joe Miller looks like he is going to beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

But, I have heard NOTHING from Democrats about Alaska and given the other races they have to worry about in the Senate, it's hard for me to imagine them spending any money in the Last Frontier or targeting it in any significant way.

Can you tell me if reliable Exit Polling of voters yesterday at the polls casting ballots sheds light on the Lisa Murkowski electoral lead over Joe Miller that retreated to a deficit? Will a complete report of the actual results take weeks as it was in other Alaska reported vote tallies (2008 for example)?

There were no exit polls.

Internal GOP tracking poll had Murkowski up high single digits and there was a belief that she would likely win by a handful of points.

Turnout is a very tough thing to predict -- not just how many people vote but who the people who vote are -- and with less than 100K total votes likely to be cast in the Murkowski-Miller race prognostication is really tough.

Chris, While I believe there are races where Palin's endorsement may have indeed made a real difference in helping an unknown get a nomination, I've seen a number of stories where she gets credit for the primary victories even when she endorsed a candidate who was well ahead before she showed up. You are much better about this, but why is she treated as magical when at best, her record of endorsements is very mixed when it comes to actually winning? And in terms of Alaska, does anyone honestly believe her endorsement of Miller wasn't simply because she very much dislikes the Murkowski family?

Right. All endorsements are not created equal.

I think Palin genuinely helped three candidates to win last night: McCain, Miller (if he wins) and Pam Bondi in the Florida AG race.

Neither Miller nor Bondi had any name recognition before Palin weighed in for them. With McCain, Palin came to the state at a time when he was struggling to convince conservatives that he was one of them.

Palin's endorsement of Allen West in Florida's 22nd district didn't have that sort of impact as he was a near-certain primary winner with or without her endorsement.

It doesn't seem that the endorsements of GOP presidential wannabees really matter, with the possilbe exception of Sarah Palin. I can't even remember if Romney or T-Paw or Huckleberry endorsed Rick Scott or not? At this point does anyone care about these endorsements other than media pundits who seem to be desparately searching for a narrative to hang their hat on?

Huckabee had been on a nice little role...Nathan Deal in Georgia, a guy in Oklahoma's 5th district runoff last night.

But, Huck was in big for McCollum who came up short in Florida.

In general, I think we tend to overestimate the power of almost all endorsements. They may matter at the margins but a single endorsement -- or even a bunch of them -- doesn't win a race for a candidate.

Do we know the precincts of the absentee votes already counted in the Alaska Senate race?

I do not.

But one of my deputies -- Fix Aaron aka Aaron Blake -- has calculated that Murkowski would need to win 5,000 of the 8,000 uncounted absentees to win the race.

I'm no math major but that seems unlikely.

If the Dems could choose only one or the other to win, which would they prefer, gov or senator? Would they consider Crist a win? How do they stack up against Scott? Will the fraud conviction affect the race-- it obviously didn't affect the primary too much?

I think state and national Democrats would prefer to win the governor's race for two major reasons:

1. Redistricting: The decennial re-drawing of congressional lines happens next year and with Florida slated to gain seats, it will be a major political fight. Controlling the governorship gives one side a leg up.

2. 2012: Florida is going to be a battleground in the next presidential race. A governor and his/her statewide political operation is a critical piece of winning the state.

In the end, what won it for Meeks? Was the negative information and comments from former employees about Greene's party lifestyle an abusive style as an employer a big factor or was it something else?

Kendrick Meek ran a disciplined campaign. He knew he couldn't match Greene dollar for dollar on TV so he waited until he could go up with a meaningful ad buy a few weeks before the primary.

Greene helped Meek's strategy succeed by imploding...firing consultants, battling daily with the media and generally running an incredibly poor campaign.

Why, when 98 percent of the incumbents win reelection in the primaries and 90 percent will win reelection in November, does the press continue to pound on the theme of an anti-establishment movement? Why isn't the headline, "voters continue to elect Washington insiders?"

No more than one incumbent Senator has lost since 1980. If Murkowski loses, she will be the third to fall in 2010.

I know that most incumbents get re-elected but when historically high numbers of Senators are losing primary bids, I think it's very much worth noting.

I think three cheers are in order for Fix deputy Felicia for sticking around until like 5 in the morning blogging the election results!

A stunning performance. For anyone who missed our live blog last night, you can check it out here.

Mrs. Fix must love how busy you are - we spend more time with you than she does!

She is pretty busy too...geting the Catholic University field hockey team ready for their run to the Landmark Conference championship....

Seriously, 6 days for less than 8,000 absentee ballots. I get that it's probably because it will just take that long for the ballots to come in through the mail from all over the state, but still, come on! You cannot be serious?!

My guess is the counting of absentees will not take that long. I also wonder whether Murkowski might see the writing on the wall before then and step out.

Of course, given the animosity between she and Palin, Murkowski may decide to stick it out until every vote is counted, which is, of course, her right.

Can he really win?

Absolutely. Alaska is a very Republican state in a good year nationally for Republicans.

I think you should make all your usual Sarah-haters repeat the following: "The Force is strong with this one."


So, given the results in Alaska last night, do you think Bob Erlich is likely to be a bit more concerned with his GOP rival for the governor's race since Palin endorsed him over Ehrlich?

My guess is he is...

What's more likely to happen--moderate Senate Democrats work with McCain again or conservatives use his new-found principles to advance their causes?

I think the former but am genuinely interested to find out. McCain's political career has been decidedly unpredictable to date so it's hard for me to know what's next.

I do think he did some damage to his brand in this primary campaign by abandoning the "maverick" image and moving to the ideological right on every issue that came across the transom.

Even if Murkowski ekes out a win, this is clearly a repudiation of the Palin critics who said she was throwing away her influence by endorsing Miller. Does the Alaska result tell us anything about the likelihood that she will seek (and win) the GOP nomination in 2012?

It affirms for me that Palin is a very strong force in Republican primaries where she goes all out to help a candidate. (And that's not everywhere that she has endorsed.)

As for 2012, I think it is unknowable. She is the least predictable political figure I have ever covered. By far.

 Raj Goyle is up with a positive bio spot touting his "Kansas values." No idea of how he spend, though this congressional district is centered around Wichita, which is a pretty cheap media market.

And the obligatory Goyle reference has been made.

Howdy Chris, Forgive me, but I just love it when professional east coast hot-air purveyors (present company excluded) are exposed for how little they actually know. For weeks I read authoritative declarations about the Alaska Senate race from your Washington Post colleagues and everyone else: "another embarrassing defeat for Palin," :"Alaska is a welfare state and they will never vote to cut off their gravy train," "Tea Party fails again," etc. I don't expect your crowd to take this as a lesson in humility, but maybe, just MAYBE, your garden variety lefty blogger types shouldn't pretend to be experts about a state they've only glimpsed from the deck of a cruise ship.

I will admit that in everything I wrote -- and said -- about the race, I pegged Murkowski as the clear frontrunner.

(Although, I did say on "Hardball" yesterday that low turnout primaries in small population states are VERY hard to predict.)

What did I learn? Never take any race for granted in a political environment like this one.

Is there a formula for Meek to win a 3-way race? What % of voters do you think will be hardcore conservatives foaming at the mouth to vote for Rubio no matter how Meek and Crist campaign?

Sure. I don't think it's the likeliest scenario but here it is.

Meek solidifies base Democrats behind him, peeling them away from Crist.

Crist remains just viable enough to win some moderate Republicans and independents -- keeping them from Rubio.

Under a scenario like that, Meek could win with 35-ish percent.

Again, not likely, but not impossible.

I'm actually originally from Sitka, where Scott McAdams is from. He really is a top-tier candidate since he has a solid record as Mayor there compared to Joe Miller. I think, as an Alaskan, Joe Miller was helped by the anti-Murkowski mood and also majorly from the medical abortion question on the ballot. Neither of those will be a factor in the Novemeber election. Plus Scott McAdams ran a good campaign for Mayor and he was upset while I feel Joe Miller didn't really do much of anything in terms of campaigning. If that's how they both run their general election campaign, I wouldn't count out Mayor McAdams just yet.

A view from the ground....

How much do you wish you could rewrite those older anti-incumbent posts but cross-out Michael Bennet's name and replace it with Lisa Murkowski? But why did Michael Bennet get more attention then Lisa Murkowski as possibly losing his primary?

Part of it -- maybe the biggest part, in fact -- is geography.

Alaska is SO far from the continental US that we have a tendency to ignore it politically.

Plus, when polls close at midnight eastern time it makes it a tough story for the media -- or anyone who likes sleep -- to cover.

What do the Florida results say about pollsters? I think only PPP had Scott up these last few days.

Polling in primaries is difficult. It just is.  Figuring out who and how many people are going to vote is very tough. Particularly in a year like this one where the growth of the tea party has created enthusiasm in a segment of the GOP base that may have been under-represented in most turnout models.

A former Alaska Governor endorses an Alaskan in a race in Alaska, and this means something in Maryland? What?

Not necessarily...but I do think Brian Murphy -- the very long shot challenger to former Gov. Bob Ehrlich in next month's primary -- gets a little more of a look now.

I concur with you on geography. Let's face it, Alvin Greene will still have gotten more attention for his upset in the South Carolina Democratic Primary then Joe Miller will.

Yup. It's like real estate. Location, location, location.

Ok, folks. I am headed to bed -- kidding (or am I?)

Thanks for joining me this am. Make sure to check out full coverage of last night's primaries on and The Fix.

And, I will see you back here on Friday for the HOUR LONG "Live Fix" chat!


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Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza is the managing editor of PostPolitics and he writes "The Fix," a politics blog for The Washington Post. He also covers the White House for the newspaper and website. Chris has appeared as a guest on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNN to talk politics. He lives in Virginia with his wife and son.

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