Tag Archives: us senate race alaska

Lies, damned lies, statistics and partisan polls

Two partisan polls from both sides of the aisle were released this week. Both of the polls included Alaska issues, and the U.S. Senate race. Both are more interesting than credible, but perhaps open a window of light into the race that has so far released few numbers.

The first poll was from the left wing firm, Public Policy Polling, commonly called PPP, and was conducted earlier this month. That firm is no stranger to Alaska polling. Following the gun control debate in Congress, the organization released an improbable poll that said that U.S. Sen. Mark Begich’s vote against gun control resulted in a decline of support among Alaskans.

In this poll, PPP polled 850 registered voters including 442 Republican primary voters. The firm’s methodology has changed some. Included in the robo calls are opt-in internet surveys. But it still can’t manage to get its demographics right. This one, like the one on guns, over sampled both women and Democrats.

The second is from Harper Polling, a right-wing firm, which surveyed 677 likely voters Jan. 20-22. Harper also uses robo calling and also appears to oversample women and Democrats, and although it has a similar margin of error as the PPP poll, it comes up with very different numbers. The left leaning group has Begich on top and the right leaning polling group has two of the GOP contenders beating Begich. Surprised?

Here’s PPP’s numbers:

  • Begich beats former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan 41 to 37 percent.
  • Begich beats Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell 43 percent to 37 percent
  • Begich beats Joe Miller 45 to 25 percent.
  • In a GOP primary, Sullivan leads with 30 percent to Treadwell’s 25 percent and Joe Miller’s 20 percent.

Harper Polling comes up with the following:

  • Treadwell beats Begich 47 to 41 percent.
  • Sullivan beats Begich 47 to 41 percent.
  • Begich beats Miller 51 to 32 percent.

All of which perhaps proves the adage that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

It’s also worth noting that nobody who’s watching this race believes that the majority of the public at this point can distinguish between Dan Sullivan the Senate candidate and Dan Sullivan, the well-known Anchorage mayor.

Also, local pollster Marc Hellenthal, who knows how to poll this state, has Begich doing pretty well in Alaska, particularly in Anchorage, which had been a problem for him.

Hellenthal wouldn’t release the numbers, but he said that Begich seems to “have solved his Anchorage problem.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Is Dan Sullivan willing to fight to be elected to U.S. Senate?

Former Commissioner Dan Sullivan, who is running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, sent out a Veterans Day message outlining his plans for, among other things, better health care for vets, reducing the backlog of veterans’ benefits, and creating more jobs for vets. (Read the plan here.)

If it were sent in a timely manner, his plan and his candidacy might have gotten some attention. As it was, it arrived in my inbox at 11 p.m. on Monday night, though the campaign says they sent it out earlier that day. In any case, it missed deadlines and was a missed opportunity. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who is also running in the primary, has not listed veterans’ issues as a priority on his website. To mark the day, he only put out a cursory thanks to vets message on Facebook. Sullivan’s other opponent, Joe Miller, is an Iraq war veteran, but he didn’t himself make mention of vets on Monday.

The country is hungry for stories about vets on Veterans Day, and Sullivan has a good one. He is a former active Marine and is still in the reserves. As a reservist, he was sent to Afghanistan on a counter-terrorism mission as recently as July.

According to the Washington Post, there will be only 12 U.S. senators who have been in active duty in the Congress. During the Cold War, 70 percent of the U.S. Congress were veterans, and in 1977, 80 percent had been in active duty.

The Post highlights some research suggesting why it might matter for policy making:

— On issues that concern the use of force and the acceptance of casualties, the opinions of veterans track more closely with those of active military officers than with civilians.
— The U.S. initiates fewer military disputes when there are more veterans in the U.S. political elite (the cabinet and the Congress).
— The U.S. uses more force in the disputes it initiates when there are more veterans in the U.S. political elite.
— Veterans are less likely to accept U.S. casualties for interventionist uses of force than for “realpolitik” uses of force.

I’ve been told that Sullivan has been reticent to turn his military service into a campaign issue. If true, it’s understandable and if he’s doing it in fear of staining the honor of his uniform, then it’s even admirable. But there’s a fine line between being admirable and being lofty. Politics is its own war and it’s one fought in the mud. If Sullivan is truly hungry to be senator for the right reasons, like those vets, then he’ll get down from his perch with the rest of the pile and use whatever he has to fight.

Or he can continue to go to fancy D.C. fundraisers and send out plans and policy initiatives that nobody reads.

CLARIFICATION: The text has been changed to reflect that the campaign said that the release was sent earlier that day.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com  


Miller to Begich over delay in healthcare mandate: Welcome to ‘knucklehead’ club

Obamacare U.S. Sen. Mark Begich announced a change of heart about the healthcare law Thursday. In a statement, he said that given the problems with the federal exchange, he now supports extending the deadline to sign up for healthcare delaying the individual mandate until the public can actually use the website intended to be a portal for the insurance.

“I have repeatedly said this law is not perfect and have proposed changes to make it work for Alaska families and small businesses,” he said in a written statement. “Given the recent website issues, I also support extending open enrollment season. I want to work with the administration to ensure that individuals are not unfairly penalized if technical issues with the website continue.”

Begich is among a handful of moderate Democrats in “red states” who called for the delay. Most of them are up for reelection in 2014 and their seats are considered vulnerable.

The online exchanges, or marketplaces, are part of the new healthcare law and were intended to be the place where consumers, who didn’t have it as part of their employment, could buy affordable insurance. The law requires most Americans to have coverage by Jan. 1 or face a fine.

But as the senators pointed out, it’s absurd to fine people who don’t purchase something that they can’t purchase because they can’t for technical reasons. The White House hasn’t ruled out a delay.

Joe Miller, a Republican who hopes to take Begich’s seat, used the opportunity to take a shot at Begich.  In a release, Miller questioned if Begich was turning into one of the “knuckleheads” Begich has been criticizing in radio ads.

“Senator Begich called those who offered this compromise ‘a small band of knuckleheads’ who are ‘holding the country hostage over the health care law,’” Miller wrote.  “I am happy to learn that Senator Begich has taken off his rose-colored glasses long enough to see one of the glaring flaws of Obamacare. Interestingly enough, the senator promised the people of Alaska that the healthcare exchange would function like buying airline tickets on Expedia. Well, let’s just say that was a little overly optimistic.”

Indeed, only a handful of Alaskans, at most, have been able to sign up for the health care exchange, which is widely considered a disaster.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Dan Sullivan finally announces for U.S. Senate

In front of a crowd of about 60, former Alaska Attorney General and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan at long last announced that he’s running for U.S. Senate, a fact that took few by surprise. For months, rumors have been swirling about his impending run.

Sullivan will be taking on Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller in the Republican primary. The victor will then go on to try to beat Democratic Sen. Mark Begich. Miller issued a press release welcoming the competition and Sullivan into the race. Shortly after his speech, Alaska’s Democratic Party sent out a release trashing Sullivan, calling him an “establishment” candidate who has the “stamp of approval from Washington insiders.”

At the announcement, Sullivan billed himself as the candidate who was both experienced and optimistic. A Marine and the tough “fighter” who can beat U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in the general election. The one who sees Alaska’s future as one that will help the rest of the country grow. The father of three young girls and the husband who is in love with his Athabascan wife. The one who can be both simultaneously detached and engaged enough to display to the audience that illusive quality best known as “charm.”

During his speech, Sullivan touched on the general themes of this campaign, mostly about how the state can take the lead on what he called the country’s “energy renaissance,” but didn’t get specific. How would he help try to save the government from impending financial collapse? What about the shutdown? Where does he stand on the hot button social issues? How is he different from his Republican rivals?

The answers have to wait for another day. For all the months that Sullivan had to plan for the announcement, for all of his supposed “establishment” credentials —  including being a former U.S. assistant secretary of state under President George W. Bush — apparently no planning went into answering media questions following his speech.

“There’s plenty of time to answering questions,” he said. “You know me,” he told members of the media. “I’ll answer your questions,” before walking away to talk to people in the crowd.

It’s true that since Sullivan took the job as attorney general in 2010, and then later as DNR commissioner, he’s been generally available to the media. The fact that he wasn’t on what could be the biggest day of his political career was puzzling.

Indeed, there’s time. The primary election is more than 9 months away. But one of the biggest issues for Sullivan will be differentiating himself from Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is running for lieutenant governor. It also doesn’t help that there’s another Dan Sullivan in Arkansas who is also running for U.S. Senate against a Democratic incumbent, a state whose postal code often gets confused with Alaska’s.

When Bill Clinton was running for president, some of his mail ended up at the post office in Hope, Alaska instead of his hometown in Arkansas.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com