A Loss In Alaska Is A Warning Sign For The GOP! This week, Mary Peltola won a special election in Alaska. This is the latest surprise that has Republicans worried, as it shows that the once-expected red wave in November is neither sure nor certain.
Peltola is the first Alaska Native and first Democrat to be elected to the state’s only House seat in decades. On Wednesday, he beat out two strong Republican challengers, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, to finish out the term of the late Rep. Don Young (R).
About a week before, Democrat Pat Ryan beat Republican Marc Molinaro in a special election in New York that was seen as a bellwether for the midterm elections.
Even though Peltola’s win may have been helped by the state’s new ranked-choice voting system, the GOP is still worried about how enthusiastic Democratic voters are and how good the Republican candidates are in key races.
Rick Whitbeck, who used to be the vice chair of the Alaska Republican Party and is now the Alaska State Director for Power the Future, was asked how he felt about Peltola’s win. He said, “My first thought was that the Republican Party has some work to do.”
Whitbeck said that he thought Palin and another Republican candidate, Nick Begich III, competing with Peltola was one reason Republicans didn’t do well in the special election. He also said that voters might have voted for Peltola as a protest against the two Republican candidates or because they didn’t know much about them.
Sure, Peltola’s win in Alaska has some things that make it different from other races in recent memory. First, this is the first time the state has used ranked-choice voting to choose its representatives. This is a system that some Republicans have criticised. The Last Frontier is also known for its politics, which are more independent than in other states. For example, it is more common for people to vote for more than one candidate.
But the race also showed some of the problems Republicans face, like the fact that their party is split.
One GOP strategist, who didn’t want to be named, said that Palin’s popularity in the state was the reason for this week’s shocking upset.
“I think you have to consider that Palin is and has been for a long time a very controversial brand in her own state,” the strategist said. “So she had a core group of people who would always back her, but, you know, even in her own party, there was a lot of discord and chaos, and you could see that, for example, with Begich.”
Recently, concerns about the quality of the Republican candidates have become clear. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) even said that was why the GOP was more likely to win the House than the Senate this year. The head of the Senate’s campaign arm, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), was very angry about McConnell’s comments. He called them “a shot at our candidates and the voters.”
On the other hand, optimism among Democrats has only grown over the summer as the party has won more and more elections.
A ballot measure in Kansas that would have given the state legislature more power to regulate abortion in the Sunflower State was voted down by many voters.
In special elections this year in Nebraska, Minnesota, and New York, Democrats lost, but not by as much as was expected. This gave them more confidence. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report changed its ratings of five House seats this week to favour Democrats. This is another sign that the Democrats are making progress.
“I think what’s happening in the Democratic Party right now, especially among House Democrats, is that the wins in New York last week and Alaska have changed the Democrats’ view of what’s possible in the election,” said Simon Rosenberg, a senior adviser to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
“And now we’re shifting from a kind of defensive position to a much more offensive one,” he said. “And I’ll tell you, I talked to the DCCC the afternoon of the New York special last week, on Tuesday. They thought they would lose by three to four points, but we won by almost two and a half.”
In a phone interview with The Hill on Thursday, Peltola was more cautious about her victory.
“I try not to make too many guesses. I’m pretty superstitious, and making definite statements tends to make bad things happen. I don’t want to guess about national trends, so I won’t,” she said. “I won a good amount, but it wasn’t a huge victory. I’ll carefully examine where I need to spend more time reaching out to Alaskans and connecting with voters.”
Many Republicans still think their party is in a good position as November comes around.
Matt Gorman, who used to be a spokesman for the House GOP’s campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that Peltola’s win was “an accident caused by ranked-choice voting.” He also disagreed that Republicans were not as competitive as people thought they would be. For example, he pointed to Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, where one of this year’s special elections was held. He pointed out that the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) won his House seat in 2018 and 2020 by very small margins.
And it’s clear that Democrats still have a lot of work to do. There are new signs that the party might be able to keep control of the Senate, but recent polls show that Republican candidates in states like Ohio and Georgia are running very close to their Democratic opponents.
In a poll from Emerson College Polling that came out last month, 45 per cent of voters who were somewhat or very likely to vote in the general election supported the Republican candidate for the Ohio Senate, J.D. Vance, while 42 per cent supported the Democratic candidate, Tim Ryan. This poll is just outside the margin of error, which is +/- 3.2 percentage points.
In a separate Emerson poll released earlier this week, 46 per cent of very likely general election voters in the state-supported Republican candidate Herschel Walker, while 44 per cent supported incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), which was within the margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
Even though the Cook Report moved some House seat ratings toward Democrats this week, the nonpartisan election handicapper still thinks Republicans will win between 10 and 20 seats in November.
Still, the GOP’s primary season has been hard at times, and some primaries have been so rough that candidates have been hurt.
“I’ve been involved in politics for 30 years, and I’ve always said this: Republicans don’t always get along,” said Whitbeck, the former vice chair of the Alaska GOP, when talking about how some races between Republicans have hurt the party.
“Sometimes I wish the Republicans would figure out how to limit the damage, you know, the circular firing squad mentality,” he said.
“Usually, the teams that win are the ones that can get through those rough patches and get back on their feet before the fourth quarter,” said a GOP strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity and compared midterm elections to NFL games.
“And this year, you know, after Labor Day is the fourth quarter of campaigning, and even though Republicans have had a rough patch, I think Democrats may have hit their peak, you know, during halftime, but in the third quarter, which is just too early.”
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