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How Murkowski Pulled It Off How Murkowski Pulled It Off

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Politics

How Murkowski Pulled It Off

November 10, 2010

"It was really interesting, actually the day before the election I went to one of my nearby villages here in Bristol Bay, and just throughout the course of the day I'd estimate I talked to about 20 voters, and offhandedly asked them, 'So who are you voting for, who are you supporting in the Senate race tomorrow?'" he said. "It was amazing. Out of about 20 people, 19 said that they were going to write in Lisa Murkowski's name, they said they knew how to do it, they had to fill in the oval."

Anchorage-based political consultant and Murkowski supporter Andrew Halcro credits Murkowski's campaign and Alaskans Standing Together's massive educational and get out the vote campaign for the success with rural voters.

"I think the votes that Sen. Murkowski received, especially in rural Alaska, were brought about by a huge get out the vote effort," said Halcro. "It's quite amazing when you think about it, because people for very long have underestimated the power of the Bush vote when they're united."

Halcro also thought some Dem voters had made the calculation that Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams (D) couldn't win and that casting a vote for Murkowski was the only way to stop Miller.

"I think she won the rural vote which she needed to, because Democrats always have a very strong presence in rural Alaska, so she did what she needed to do in rural Alaska and she held her own in some of the urban centers that proved to be problematic during the primary," he said. "You had people who thought well, I'm a Democrat, but my guy can't win, and I sure as hell don't want Joe Miller, so I'll write in Lisa Murkowski."

Alaska Democratic strategist David Shurtleff noted that a significant number of Democrats had actually split their ballot, voting for Democrat Ethan Berkowitz for governor and either Murkowski or Miller for Senate -- the vast majority of which appeared to have favored Murkowski. While McAdams pulled in 26 percent of the vote, Berkowitz managed 40 percent. In recent two-candidate competitive elections in Alaska, Democratic candidates have received a minimum of 38 percent of the statewide vote, suggesting that Murkowski may have won nearly a third of the votes that under different conditions might have been cast for McAdams.

A similar story played out on the Republican side. While the number of voters participating in the general election nearly doubled from the Republican primary, Miller increased his vote tally only 25 percent. At the same time, Murkowski's write-in campaign appears to have gathered 50 percent more votes than her primary campaign, indicating that she took as much as a third of the traditional Republican vote and swept independents.

While the write-in ballots still have to be counted, Halcro felt confident that Murkowski had pulled off a successful Senate write-in campaign. But in the week since Election Day Miller has filed the lawsuit, accused Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell (R) of being biased against him, the Division of Elections of switching dates around, and a federal contractor of violating FEC rules.

Halcro didn't think things would quiet down soon.

"It's all over. There's just no plausible way to pencil out something where Joe Miller can come from behind with the votes that remain to be counted," said Halcro. "I don't see it happening, but I'm sure Joe will put on a good show until then."

Shurtleff also thought Murkowski would likely prevail -- but not before a drawn-out legal process runs its course, with the "voter intent" issue playing a prominent role.

"I think, depending on how big a deal the Tea Party wants to make this, this might make Minnesota 2008 or Bush v. Gore look like a walk at the park," he said. "You could eventually get right down to, 'Did people dot the lowercase 'I' at the end of 'Murkowski'? I mean how do we know that's not an 'l'? You know, 'Lisa Murkowskl.' It could get that ridiculous. I see this going through court after court after court."

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