Democrats dreaming of McAdams' surprise win

Paul Jenkins

There is something comical about Alaska Democrats hustling hither and yon to make somebody -- anybody -- believe their pick for U.S. Senate, Scott McAdams, has even a tiny prayer in the general election. You could almost feel sorry for them -- except they are Democrats.

Their "Alice in Wonderland" story line goes like this: Nobody has won a write-in campaign in Alaska. Never. And nobody ever will. Supporting Murkowski, they say, is a waste of time. Support our guy, instead.

Losers who prove the Democrats' point include Democrat Ernest Gruening in 1968, who won 17.4 percent of the vote in that Senate contest. Or Wally Hickel in 1978, after losing the GOP gubernatorial primary by a whisper. He won 26.4 percent in the general election. Or Robin Taylor, who lost the 1998 GOP gubernatorial primary to John "Radio Mirror" Lindauer. Taylor picked up the GOP's banner when Lindauer went bonkers, imploded and lost Republican support. Taylor was left holding the GOP's bag just before the election but still garnered 18.3 percent of the vote in his write-in.

Democrats desperately need Democrats to believe Lisa Murkowski will sing with Elvis in Las Vegas before she can win a write-in campaign. To that end, they are trotting out their political gurus to tell anybody who will listen -- mostly other Democrats, Commie TV and the occasional bullet-headed talk show host -- that the jig is up for her. Why the push?

Their nightmare is that many in their ranks will jump ship to Murkowski, a moderate Republican, if they think the McAdams boat is sinking.

The bad news for Democrats is that their thesis is wrong. This not 1968, 1978 or 1998. Times have changed; technology has changed; the state has changed. Every election is different. Even Sarah Palin can get elected nowadays.

Let's look at last weekend's Public Policy Polling survey of 1,678 likely voters done for the unabashedly pinko Daily Kos. Pollsters asked:

"In the election for U.S. Senate will you vote for Democrat Scott McAdams, Republican Joe Miller, or someone else?" Lisa Murkowski's name was not even mentioned. The results: McAdams got 26 percent; Miller tallied 35 percent; and "Someone else" netted 35 percent.

If a respondent answered "someone else" they were asked if they were voting for one of a handful of other candidates or would they write in Lisa Murkowski or someone else. Murkowski nailed down 95 percent of those votes. So, it shakes out this way: McAdams gets 26 percent; Miller wins 35 percent, and that was before the latest scandal bomb about him using Fairbanks borough equipment for political purposes -- shades of Sarah -- and Murkowski walks away with 33 percent -- without pollsters even using her name initially.

McAdams, who by all accounts is a nice guy, is toast, no matter the Democrats' spin. He was toast on Day One. There is no air left in the campaign for him. I'm not trying to be mean. It's just fact. Most Democrats, independents and undeclared already know that and are deciding they will do better with a moderate Republican than with Miller, a guy with ethics problems. McAdams, remember, is even trailing "someone else."

Many things have changed since Murkowski's primary loss, when many voters did not bother to vote for Murkowski because they thought she would win easily. Others could not get a Republican ballot or did not vote at all, saving their vote for the general election. (I've never understood those people.) There was no sense of urgency; no reason to get excited. A poll, after all, showed Murkowski safely ahead. Her supporters are excited now. There is a truckload of money and energy -- and the stark possibility of a Miller win. They will vote now.

Unlike the primary, where there was a parental abortion notification measure on the ballot that turned out Miller's far-right, tea-party crowd, Miller now is on his own. But Alaska Natives and rural Alaska have lined up solidly behind Murkowski for the general election. A constitutional amendment expanding the Legislature to rural Alaska's benefit is on the ballot and should ensure rural turnout.

More important, this time around, Murkowski has her groove back. She is not focused on dealing with the tragic death of former Sen. Ted Stevens, her friend and mentor. This time around, she's in the game and some of the shine is gone from Miller.

Hey, is that Elvis I hear?

Paul Jenkins is editor of the Anchorage Daily Planet.