Alaska's three-way Senate fight has quickly become one of the hottest showdowns to watch of the races set to be decided on Tuesday. Since the state's August primary when Tea Party-backed Joe Miller swiped the state's Republican nomination from incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski -- who is now making a write-in campaign -- the race between the two contenders and Democratic nominee Scott McAdams has been rife with drama and unpredictability that continues to rage going into decision day.
According to a survey released by Public Policy Polling on Sunday night, Miller is currently running ahead of the pack, locking-up 37 percent voter support. Murkowski and McAdams both boast 30 percent of the state's vote, the poll shows. A closer look at the numbers highlights the unusual factors at play in the election scenario.
News of Miller's lead comes on the heels of the candidate finding himself embroiled in a firestorm of controversy surrounding ethics violations he made in 2008 while working as a government attorney. It recently came to light that the GOP hopeful himself admitted to lying about his involvement in the matter at the time. In this context, it should perhaps come as no surprise that while Miller heads into election day maintaining frontrunner status, the Senate contender is looked upon unfavorably by majority of the Alaska electorate, according to the PPP poll. Among the candidates, it is McAdams, likely the least well known of the three, who is viewed the most favorably by voters in the Last Frontier.
"This race has been so unpredictable I wouldn't write off any of the candidates yet," explained Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "Joe Miller certainly looks like the favorite but the biggest surprise in Alaska this year would be if there wasn't a surprise."
An excerpt of analysis from PPP:
It appears that Murkowski will lose this race. There are 2 main reasons for that. The first is that she retained little goodwill from Republicans after deciding to make an independent bid. Only 27% of GOP voters are planning to vote for her on Tuesday, down from 31% from a PPP poll earlier in October. The second reason Murkowski's headed for a loss is that she failed to dominate with independents. She is slightly ahead with them, getting 34% to 32% for McAdams and 31% for Miller. But they're not providing her with a strong base of support the way Democrats are for McAdams and Republicans for Miller.
The grim outlook for Murkowski painted by the latest numbers out on the Alaska race perhaps explains buzz resurfacing about the prospect of the incumbent lawmaker pulling a party-switch to caucus with Democrats in the event she manages to pull off a win in her reelection bid. The speculation comes despite the fact that Murkowski recently signaled that the possibility of jumping ship from the GOP was off the table.
Here's what Murkowski herself said when asked about the caucus issue in an interview with Time magazine:
If you win, would you consider caucusing with the Democrats?
No. I'm a Republican. I'm running as a write-in Republican candidate. So, I'm not my party's nominee. Does that give me a little more flexibility and independence? Perhaps, yes...
A spokesman for Murkowki's campaign reaffirmed to the Associated Press on Monday that Murkowski's position on the matter remains unchanged.
So, what can Tuesday's Senate election in Alaska be expected to produce at the end of the day? Just one day before the culmination of the race, Democrats find themselves bestowed with an unexpected opportunity to pick-up a GOP seat in the upper congressional chamber, while Republicans have before them two candidates whose hypothetical wins would allow them to keep the seat; however, there is still cause for concern with the intense scrutiny that has become fixated on Miller's campaign and the dwindling odds faced by Murkowski. The bottom line: anything can happen.
The New York Times reports how the unusual nature of the three-way race could leave the unpredictability lingering beyond ballots are cast in Alaska on election day:
The wrinkles of a write-in campaign in an Alaskan election could mean it takes weeks before anyone knows whether Senator Lisa Murkowski pulled off a political miracle.
Then again, the race could be called on election night. Or it could end up in court, making the long Arctic winter seem even longer.