Joe Miller, trailing badly in a three-way race for the Alaska Republican Party’s Senate nomination, would love to see the old Sarah Palin magic sprinkle enough deja vu dust on his campaign to propel him to another upset victory.
Palin has endorsed Miller in his Alaska GOP Senate primary campaign. Miller sent the news to his followers in a fundraising email Aug. 15, just four days before Republicans will decide who will be their candidate to run against Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).
Palin backed Miller in a written statement to Fox News that was released earlier that day, according to the quote that Miller’s team included in their request for campaign donations.
“The status quo has got to go, and in Alaska the man who understands this key to our state and country’s future also has the guts, wisdom, experience and optimism to fight for what is right — and win,” Palin said.
Palin and Miller have history, and the Miller campaign would love to see that history repeat itself, and then make some new history.
It was a Palin endorsement that fueled the Miller primary upset over Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in 2010. However, that’s where the Miller team would like to see the deja vu all over again end.
The Palin magic did not last long enough.
Murkowski mounted a write-in campaign and defeated Miller in the general election.
Bad news for Miller. It could be the Palin magic won’t have the pizzazz it had in 2010. A Public Policy Polling survey of Alaska voters released three days before the Palin endorsement of Miller shows her star is fading.
Only 36 percent of Alaska voters have a favorable opinion of their former governor as compared to 55 percent who view her negatively.
Miller’s not the only GOP senatorial primary candidate who can point to support with a Palin connection. The Mead Treadwell campaign quickly pointed out Aug. 15 that Palin’s father-in-law, Jim Palin, endorsed their candidate.
Dan Sullivan, who has been leading the three-candidate GOP Senate primary field since Day One, also has a Palin connection, though not a Palin endorsement. He was her attorney general.
The Public Policy Polling survey released Aug. 3 shows the Republican primary race has tightened a bit, but Sullivan still leads the field with 33.5 percent of likely Alaska GOP primary voters expecting to cast their ballot for him. Treadwell is next with 26 percent. Miller has 17.5 percent support.
The PPP survey contained good news for both Treadwell and Miller.
Sullivan’s six-point lead is down from a 14 point advantage in May. His support has dropped from 40 percent to 35 percent, while Treadwell has gone from 26 percent to 29 percent.
Don’t count Miller out just yet. His numbers have shown the biggest improvement in the PPP surveys.
Miller’s support has climbed from 14 percent to 20 percent.
PPP says the odds of a Miller upset are still pretty minuscule with him 15 points out of first place, but it has to make Republicans slightly more nervous than they were when he was 26 points out.
It is important to remember who is mostly likely to show up at the polls on primary day: the party’s base.
And the PPP survey shows there is a significant ideological divide in this race.
Treadwell leads the pack in the eyes of moderate voters, getting 48 percent to 26 percent for Sullivan and just 9 percent for Miller.
However, as is always the case with Republican primary electorates, there are far more conservatives than moderates, and that may make it hard for Treadwell to snag the nomination.
With conservatives, the advantage goes to Sullivan, but Miller is nipping at his heels as should be expected.
Sullivan leads with “very conservative” voters at 34 percent to Miller’s 32 percent with Treadwell in a distant third at 19 percent.
Here is the news fueling GOP campaign spending: The PPP survey also shows Begich would beat any of the three GOP candidates.
Begich leads Dan Sullivan 43/37, Mead Treadwell 42/37 and Joe Miller 45/32.
“Our polling for the likely Mark Begich/Dan Sullivan general election contest has been remarkably consistent,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling.
“Begich has held a lead in the 4-7 point range on all four polls we’ve done over the last year.”
However, the GOP has not given up on winning the Senate seat.
Here’s why: In these matchups, 11-12 percent of voters are still undecided.
Voters are closely divided on Begich’s job performance with 43 percent of voters approving of his job performance and 44 percent disapproving, according to the PPP survey.
And the Democrats obviously have reason for optimism. Not only does Begich have the advantage inherent with incumbency, he does particularly well with women in the state.
Among women voters Begich leads Sullivan by 14 points, 47/33, Treadwell by 15 points, 46/31, and Miller by 20 points, 48/28.
Republicans need to change those numbers and are already making the argument that Begich is too liberal, even for women.
“Begich is so far outside the mainstream that not only is he comfortable with late-term abortion, he’s actively politicizing it and using the issue to raise political cash,” said Brook Hougesen, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“Begich’s extreme position puts him deeply at odds with most women.”
However, looking ahead to the Aug.19 primary, the most interesting race might not be on the GOP senatorial slate, according to the PPP survey.
The race being watched most closely is whether voters will decide whether or not to repeal Senate Bill 21, more commonly known as the Oil and Gas Production Tax and the More Alaska Production Act.
The Alaska State Legislature approved the bill that grants tax breaks to oil companies.
This referendum measure is tied at 42 percent “yes” and 42 percent “no” while 16 percent of the electorate is still undecided.
The Public Policy Polling survey shows the fate of this measure may rest on which party’s voters show up on Election Day. Democrats support the repeal 65/22 but Republicans oppose it by nearly the same margin, 63/23.