'Bizarre' Alaska Senate Race May Take Weeks to Wrap Up

Murkowski's write-in bid could delay results in the hard-fought race

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One day removed from the conclusion (perhaps) of the Alaska Senate race, the three-way toss-up has devolved into "surreal political theater." Lisa Murkowski, the Republican incumbent, has waged an unusually viable write-in bid to save her seat. Joe Miller, the Tea Party insurgent turned presumptive front-runner, has seen his unpopularity rating soar among potential voters and his campaign implode after numerous high-profile gaffes. And Scott McAdams? No one was even talking him a few months ago, but the Democrat has continued to plug away on the trail, hoping to draw moderate Alaskans away from the two Republicans who have engaged in bitterly divisive politicking. The impossible-to-predict race may not end on election day, as the deluge of write-in votes could stall the results for the next several weeks.

  • Irony: Voters May Unwittingly Usher in the Candidate They 'Despise'  The New Republic's Jonathan Chait outlines an all-too-real scenario where moderate Alaskans, in an effort to stop Joe Miller, end up voting the least popular candidate into office. "Moderate Republicans have to tactically choose between Miller and Murkowski. (Stop McAdams!) Moderate Democrats have to tactically choose between McAdamas and Murkowski. (Stop Miller!) Any last minute polls or news could send one or both of those groups stampeding in one direction or another." The result being that "either the one candidate in the race who voters despise, Miller, wins, or else a mildly unpopular candidate who's off the ballot wins, or else a heavily Republican state in a heavily Republican year elects a largely unknown Democrat."
  • Irony Part II: By Being Inconspicuous, Scott McAdams Has a Shot at Winning  On a "shoestring" campaign that "barely drew any interest" during the primaries, Democrat Scott McAdams may just pull off a coup in the Senate race, writes Associated Press scribe Becky Bohrer. "McAdams' campaign believes it's done everything it could have - avoided major stumbles, fared well in debates and raised enough money to stay on the airwaves in the race's waning days." Perhaps even more surprising is that the candidate is polling well "all while touting support for Democratic positions that some candidates this cycle have run from, including the federal stimulus plan and efforts to overhaul health care, abortion rights, and equal rights for gays and lesbians."
  • Surprise: Alaska Could Be a 'Nightmare' for Republicans  ABC News's Jonathan Karl reports that even if the most prominent write-in candidate appears to win on election night, the race may eventually be decided in favor of the Democrats. Here's how: "Once the write-in votes are counted, however, some of them will inevitably be disqualified (illegible writing, wrong name, etc.). And a small number will be for candidates other than Murkowski. If enough are tossed out, second place McAdams would be the winner."
  • Warning: Even if the Miller Campaign 'Implodes' He Still May Win  The "bizarre" Alaska race has become impossible to predict, hedges Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall, who proceeds to describe a Public Policy Polling scenario. "The complete implosion of Miler's campaign seems -- if this poll bears out -- to be ensuring that he'll win. He being Joe Miller. I'll let you look at their write up to figure out how that can possibly be so. But that's the gist. Another way to look at it is that Miller has collapsed so badly that Murkowski, rather than splitting the vote and making a McAdams win possible, now looks to him denying McAdams the victory he could win in a two person race."
  • Caveat: That Is, If the Votes Are Ever Counted  Politics Daily's Tom Kavanagh details the inevitable thorny issues that will arise in the aftermath of the write-in campaign. "All write-in ovals are tabulated together, since the computers cannot read handwriting. Determining what name was written in would take place only if the general write-in category comes in either ahead of or within half a percent of the lead after all ballots are counted....The state director of elections has said that a vote would be counted if 'voter intent' can be determined. And just to muddy the waters further, about 150 new candidates registered as write-ins on Friday, encouraged by a conservative radio host who supports Miller."
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