Will Joe Miller's Win Put the Alaska Senate Seat in Play?

It looks like Sarah Palin-backed ultra-conservative Joe Miller will actually win the Alaska Senate Republican primary against incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski. Votes are still being counted but Miller has the lead. The big question: is there any hope that Democrat Scott McAdams may actually win the general election this year? To help answer the question Tom Jensen at PPP has polled the two-person and potential three-person race (PDF) with Murkowski running on the Libertarian Party ticket.

PPP (PDF) (8/27-28)
Joe Miller (R) 47
Scott McAdams (D) 39
Undecided 14

Joe Miller (R) 38
Scott McAdams (D) 22
Lisa Murkowski (L) 34
Undecided 6

The important point about the poll is that Democrat Scott McAdams is not well known in Alaska. 23% of voters have a favorable view of him, 24% have an unfavorable view, and 53% are not sure. This is not surprising given that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has invested no money in the race and until recently McAdams had raised less than $10,000. Currently McAdams is basically a blank slate meaning there is huge potential for movement, either positive or negative.

Polling only eight points down in a Republican state in a Republican year, Alaska is not a bad place to be for McAdams as a no-name Democrat. There are several top-tier Democratic recruits with very expensive campaigns in what are thought to be battle ground states which have recently polled eight points or more behind their Republican opponent.

McAdams benefits from Joe Miller's very high unfavorable numbers. Only 36% have a favorable opinion while 52% have an unfavorable opinion of him. Miller has taken some extremely and unpopular positions on which McAdams could easily hammer. It is not inconceivable that after McAdams runs even a modest amount of what should be relatively cheap campaign ads to improve his name recognition with Alaska's voters, there could be significant improvement in his poll numbers.

The three-person race numbers are interesting but I suspect they have no predictive power. Three-way races can be extremely volatile and clearly McAdams has a lot of potential for growth. In a three-way race it is not inconceivable McAdams could pull off a narrow victory by simply rallying the die-hard 35.5% of the Alaska electorate that voted for John Kerry in 2004.

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