Why Trump’s attempt to oust Murkowski might face hurdles

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) will face Donald Trump’s recommended nominee on Tuesday, a long-awaited showdown that comes more than a year after she voted to try the former president for his role on Jan. 6, 2021. Attack on the Capitol.

The primary comes as Trump rakes in victories across the country to rid Congress of Republicans who got in his way. And polls have shown that his running pick, Kelly Tshibaka, is leading the primary draw.

But observers say Murkowski shouldn’t worry too much just yet. Alaska’s new voting system, which includes an all-party primary followed by a ranking vote in the general election, means the moderate senator is all but guaranteed to advance Tuesday even if she’s not the best voter. And the system could work to their advantage in November as well.

“She has nothing to lose, and we think voters will twist Trumpy more than the general does, and we think voters overall will be more partisan,” said John-Henry Heckendorn, an Alaska-based policy adviser, referring to the elementary school next week.

That is expected to change in November, he said.

“The bar for Murkowski is low in the primary because she’s likely to be favored by a larger and less partisan electorate in general.”

Still, the race is likely to be seen as another test of Trump’s clout, and Murkowski, who is the only one of the seven senators who voted to sentence the former president to reelection this year, won’t be favored Tuesday.

Trump traveled to Alaska last month to hold a rally for Tshibaka, former governor and congressional candidate Sarah Palin and current governor Mike Dunleavy (R). The former president took the opportunity to blast Murkowski over her vote during his impeachment trial last year.

“She voted to impeach me. And I’ve done more for this state than any president in history. And this play,” he said, before speaking the word “garbage” to the crowd, “voted to impeach me!”

Trump’s support of Tshibaka also seems to be felt among the state’s conservative grassroots parties. Conservative women’s group Maggie’s List backed Tshibaka to the incumbent GOP senator late last year, citing recommendations from state party leaders.

“A lot of the reasons for this had to do with Kelly’s strong, conservative values ​​and how she reflected the values ​​of Maggie’s List as an organization,” said Tina Ramirez, national spokeswoman for Maggie’s List.

But Murkowski only needs to finish in the top four on Tuesday to advance to a general election. And other Republicans are less confident Tshibaka can oust Murkowski, who has a large presence in the state.

“I don’t think Tshibaka would be part of the conversation if it weren’t for Trump’s support,” said a national Republican strategist. “It’s a state that Trump won by a pretty big margin.”

But, added the strategist, “I wouldn’t say he’s as popular there as anywhere else.”

The strategist rated Murkowski’s robust campaigning as a plus for her well into November. She is well known in the state and has a significant fundraising advantage. Murkowski raised $1.7 million versus Tshibaka’s $587,000 in the second quarter of the year.

Murkowski has also previously defied odds in the political arena, overcoming a primary loss in 2010 with a write-in campaign.

“There is no better politician in Alaska than Murkowski,” said the strategist. “She will do whatever she has to do to win.”

Additionally, Murkowski has a relatively solid approval rating in her home state. According to data released by Morning Consult, 46 percent of Alaskan voters say they approve of Murkowski’s job performance, while 39 percent say they disapprove.

Alaska’s new ranked voting system could also benefit Murkowski, a frequent Senate switcher who had crossover appeal.

A candidate needs more than 50 percent of the votes to be directly declared the winner. If the top candidate does not have that percentage of votes, the candidate with the fewest votes that round is eliminated from the ballot, and the votes of those who placed that candidate first go to their second choice. The process continues until a candidate has more than 50 percent.

Observers say it’s likely Murkowski will be the one to receive independent, Democratic and centrist Republican votes in subsequent rounds.

A poll by Alaska Survey Research laid out a hypothetical general election between Murkowski, Tshibaka, Democrat Patricia Chesboro, and Alaskan Independence Party candidate Dustin Darden. It showed Tshibaka leading in the first two rounds of voting, but Murkowski in the third and last round with 4 points ahead of Tshibaka.

The Morning Consult poll found that 62 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of independents say they approve of Murkowski’s performance.

“For Murkowski, I’m not going to say it’s a done deal and obviously nobody’s taking it for granted, but without a serious Democrat in this race, she has all the space she needs on her left to collect the votes she needs.” in the second or third round,” said the GOP national strategist.

Still, ranked voting is a new concept in Alaska, and experts aren’t exactly sure how it will pan out.

“We know some people will turn down this opportunity, but we don’t know to what extent,” Heckendorn said. “Those are the questions that are going to be really influential when it comes to how Lisa Murkowski’s election plays out.”

One clue could be a special election to be held Tuesday to fill the state seat at large, previously held by the late Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). It is carried out by ranking list voting.

Republican candidates for Young’s seat include former vice presidential nominee and former governor Sarah Palin and Nicholas.

Palin dragged in Begich and Peltola a series of recent surveys, despite Trump’s official support. And the ranking could benefit a candidate like Begich, since a traditional primary would have produced a more conservative base likely to rally around Palin.

“This is the first time in Alaskan history that we truly understand how the electorate behaves in a ranked voting environment,” Heckendorn said. “What we’re going to learn about Murkowski’s race is what we’ll learn from the special elections in Congress.”

-Updated at 3:02 p.m

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