Monday, August 13, 2007
Hays Poll Indicates Alaska Governor Sarah Palin Would Clobber Ted Stevens 59 Percent To 36 Percent In U.S. Senate Republican Nomination Race
The Hays Research Corporation released the results of two polls taken during the past two weeks. Media reports on these polls available on Anchorage Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins' Alaska Politics blog, and a story aired by KTUU Channel 2 Anchorage, both on August 13th, 2007.
The first and most significant poll, taken from July 31-August 1, asked 500 respondents how they would choose for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination if an election were held today. The results:
Sarah Palin: 59%
Ted Stevens: 36%
Don't Know/Refused: 5%
Another question from that same poll, which was asked first and may have been used to set up the Palin-Stevens question, asked respondents to describe, using a range of choices, how they felt about Sarah Palin. Eighty-four percent of respondents stated they felt positive about Governor Palin, subdivided into 56% Very Positive and 28% Somewhat Positive.
So the possibility exists that whoever commissioned the poll may have arranged for the "approval" question to be asked first in order to set up a more positive response on behalf of Palin for the Palin-Stevens question.
Hays also took a second poll between August 8-9, asking 400 respondents a couple of hypothetical questions about the prospective 2009 Anchorage mayoral race. Both questions involved Democratic former State House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, and how he would fare against two well-known opponents, both of who currently serve on the Anchorage Assembly. Here are the results:
Ethan Berkowitz vs. Dan Coffey:
Don't Know: 18%
Ethan Berkowitz vs. Dan Sullivan:
Don't Know: 18%
Your eyes do not deceive you. The results are identical, despite the fact that Dan Coffey and Dan Sullivan are radically different conservatives. Coffey is a classic set-piece big government nanny-state neoconservative who has promoted intrusive legislation such as two anti-smoking ordinances, a bicycle helmet ordinance, and is now pushing an ordinance banning pets from municipal sports fields. Sullivan, in contrast, is more a small-government paleoconservative who believes government should tend to restrict itself to functions people cannot do for themselves efficiently or effectively. Both Coffey and Sullivan have equally fought excessive restrictions against small businesses, mitigating a harsh sign ordinance passed a few years ago when liberals dominated the assembly, and led the charge to balance our municipal revenue stream by reducing property taxes and looking to other sources of revenue. Both proposed sales tax ordinances, one which never made it out of committee, and Coffey's ordinance, which was voted down by the community in 2006.
Quite frankly, I'm at a loss as to why Berkowitz' margin is so impressive. From observing him politically, Berkowitz was a stand-up guy in the legislature who never tried to deliberately obstruct the Republican majority and who was always looking for ways to achieve common ground. However, he doesn't project himself as positive as Mayor Mark Begich; indeed, Berkowitz seems to have an excessively metrosexual persona in a fairly macho state. Coffey has been a polarizing figure, pissing people off at times, but Sullivan is not polarizing. Could the VECO Republican scandals be impacting their image as well? If so, the Alaska Republican Party could be in for a major reversal, with the Alaska State Senate actually passing into Democratic control in the 2008 elections.
Palin's margin is a study in extremes; she just happens to be extremely popular at this point, and Stevens just happens to be extremely unpopular. It's the unusual confluence of one's apogee with another's perigee. By the time 2008 rolled around, Palin probably could still defeat Stevens, but probably by no more than 5-10 percentage points (this is assuming that Stevens can survive the spate of investigations he's being subjected to). Perhaps this explains why Palin repeatedly disavows any intent to run for the Senate or the House in 2008, unless either Stevens or Young are forced to resign their seats.
Anne Hays, a former IBEW researcher who's the owner of Hays Research, would not reveal who specifically commissioned these polls. However, Hays is known to have a close relationship with Alaska's most controversial union, the IBEW. They in turn have a close relationship with the Alaska Democratic Party. What's interesting is that until now, Berkowitz seemed more interested in a run for Congress. Now all of a sudden, he's testing the mayoral waters. Meanwhile, the state party chairman, Jake Metcalfe, is already a formal candidate against Don Young. This means the Democratic insiders are divvying up the slots in advance. And Diane Benson is definitely, and I mean MOST definitely NOT an insider. They're not going to be looking to "make her happy", since her core constiuency is looked upon as a bunch of neo-hippies.
So here's the way I think it's going down. Metcalfe is going against Young, they want to put Begich up against Stevens, and they'll placate Berkowitz by backing his play for the Anchorage mayorship in 2009. This is what the Alaska Democratic Party believes is their strongest lineup. But "strong" and "deep" are not synonymous amongst Alaska Democrats, so they want to get their strongest players going for the top races.
It's a smart strategy, and it could work. But will it serve Alaska's interests?