Alaska Senate Race Remains Chaotic, Fluid

Alaska Senate Race Remains Chaotic, Fluid

By Scott Conroy - September 30, 2010

There may be no other major race in this year’s election cycle that is replete with as much uncertainty as the Alaska Senate contest featuring Republican Joe Miller, Democrat Scott McAdams, and write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski

A CNN/Time poll released on Wednesday showed Miller with a narrow 38 percent to 36 percent lead over Murkowski - the incumbent senator whom he defeated in the GOP primary- with McAdams trailing far behind at 22 percent.

But the new poll and other surveys conducted to this point have raised more questions than they have answered.

Since Murkowski’s name will not appear on the ballot, it is difficult to impossible for pollsters to accurately gauge the scenario Alaskans will encounter when they enter the voting booth on November 2.

The CNN-Time poll listed Murkowski’s name when it asked likely voters whether they would write it in - a prompting from which potential Murkowski voters will not benefit when they actually cast their ballots.

Alaska pollster Dave Dittman told RealClearPolitics that beginning on Friday, he will conduct a new round of polling that will attempt to address the issue.

Dittman’s new poll will use various methodologies to test the question of whether and how to prompt voters with Murkowski’s name, and he will then evaluate and attempt to make sense of the results of each method.

“We’re not releasing anything until I feel confident,” Dittman said, adding that his poll’s results will likely be made public sometime next week.

While Miller attends fundraising events in Washington, D.C., Murkowski and McAdams are continuing to spend most of their time campaigning in the Anchorage area, which is home to about half of Alaska’s population. Trips to southeast Alaska and the town of Bethel - the largest population center in the western part of the state -have also been on their itineraries.

A Murkowski campaign official said that the senator will announce on Friday that she intends to participate in several debates against Miller and McAdams.

The Murkowksi campaign recently launched a new ad specifically designed to educate voters about the write in process, and campaign co-chair Mary Hughes has been working with the Alaska Division of Elections regarding an impending ruling from the attorney general on how the state will determine voter intent for write in ballots.

Though recent polls have shown that McAdams may be in danger of becoming marginalized in the race as independent voters flock to Murkowski, an Alaska Democratic official told RealClearPolitics that the McAdams campaign will announce that he has raised about $500,000 since the primary - a very respectable sum in a state where advertising is relatively cheap.

McAdams’ first TV ad went up on Thursday, which his campaign hopes will introduce the still largely unknown Democrat to voters.

In the last month of the campaign, McAdams’ strategy will be to define the Tea Party-backed Miller as an extremist, while attempting to mitigate Murkowski’s presence in the race.

“We have to convince people that Scott can win this and that he’s got the experience, which he does,” the Democratic official said of McAdams, who is currently the Mayor of Sitka. “He has more experience than Lisa had when she was appointed to the seat.”

The Democratic state official said that McAdams has not received financial support from the national Democratic Party, adding, “We’re doing it on our own."

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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