Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Republican Mitt Romney And Democrat Barack Obama Win Impressive Victories In Alaska; Below Zero Temperatures No Deterrent To Voting

Now that the numbers are in, this post has been re-worked and re-titled. Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama won impressive victories in their respective caucuses in Alaska on February 5th, 2008. Stories from KTUU Channel 2, HERE, HERE, HERE, Romney, and Obama, and the Anchorage Daily News, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

The outcome of the Republican caucuses was never in doubt. Initial exit polls showed Romney taking an early lead over Ron Paul. But as the night progressed, Romney continued to maintain that lead, while Mike Huckabee surged into second. Approximately 12,000 Republicans participated statewide, three times the usual number, but it seemed Republican organizers were better prepared and did not experience the logistical problems plaguing the Democrats.

Here are the Republican numbers from ABC News, with 97% of the vote counted (delegate totals from RealClearPolitics):

Mitt Romney: 5,032 votes, 44% (12 delegates)
Mike Huckabee: 2,492 votes, 22% (6 delegates)
Ron Paul: 1,896 votes, 17% (3 delegates)
John McCain: 1,767 votes, 15% (5 delegates)
Uncommitted: 187 votes, 2%, (0 delegates)

The delegate count now, according to RealClearPolitics, is McCain 560, Romney 226, Huckabee 154, and Paul 14.

The Democratic caucuses were considerably more eventful. Anchorage organizers planned for 3,500 voters and reserved Begich Middle School to accomodate the crowd; 5,000 showed up. Monumental traffic jams stretching two miles on DeBarr Road resulted; many voters left their vehicles as is to make it to the caucus on time. The caucuses, originally slated to begin at 6:00 P.M., were pushed back several times to a start time of 7:30 P.M. This snafu was inexcusable (and they want us to trust them to run the country? LOL!).

A similar problem occurred in Wasilla. The Grand View Inn, with a capacity of 140 people, was reserved by Mat-Su Democratic organizers; 500 showed up. Ultimately, a fire marshal showed up and ordered them to relocate. The Mat-Su School District generously offered them the use of the gym at Wasilla High School, and to there they reconstituted. But unlike the Anchorage snafu, this malfunction was legitimate; four years prior, the caucuses attracted only 35 people. There's no way Mat-Su Democratic organizers could have envisioned 500 attendees in their wildest dreams.

Here are the Democratic numbers from ABC News, with 97% of the vote counted:

Barack Obama: 302 votes, 75% (9 delegates)
Hillary Clinton: 103 votes, 25% (3 delegates)
Uncommitted: 1 vote, 0% (0 delegates)

The Democratic delegate count now, according to RealClearPolitics, is Clinton 764 and Obama 716.

Alaskan voters looked upon the caucuses as a chance for for voters to make history. "I think people just feel empowered to speak and to vote and this is what this about," said Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, a Romney supporter.

One by one, Republican voters streamed through the Egan Center to have their voice heard. Mayfield Evans remembers the day when his voice didn't seem to matter much. "When I was in the military the election was over before we had to vote," Evans said. "We knew who would be president before voted. Now I feel good about it. It makes a big difference."

And up in Fairbanks, temperatures around 30 below zero didn't stop Republicans from flocking to the polls to cast their votes for the party’s presidential nominee. An estimated 800 people turned out at Gavora Mall alone for the Districts 9 and 10 presidential preference poll. “We’re not witnessing the apathy we see in most other elections,” District 10 Leader Nick Stepovich said.

Fairbanks Democrats were not to be outdone. Of the 1,000 or so people who gathered at the J.P. Jones Community Development Center and the Corinthian Baptist Church - also braving temperatures that surpassed 30 below zero — 723 selected Obama while 253 chose Clinton. Change was on the mind of most who picked the Illinois senator over the senator from New York. “He’s new. He’s different,” said Ted Larranaga, a small business owner. “I like Sen. Clinton, but she’s old politics. She’s part of the 1990s.”

And from the Anchorage Daily News' Alaska Politics blog, a couple of snippets from outlying parts of Alaska. From Petersburg in Southeast Alaska, Jean Ellis was hosting the Republican vote at her house. About 45 people out of 400 registered Republicans in town came in before voting closed, she said. That was pretty good, considering the weather. "Its is awful. Absolutely terrible," she said. "It's blowing, it's freezing, it's icy."

From the Bristol Bay communty of Naknek, Jerry Foster and his wife Judy hosted a Democratic caucus at their house. About 11 people showed up, he said. That wasn't great turn out but it was 20 below, so some people didn't travel. "There was nine for Hillary and two for Barack Obama," he said. There are only 17 registered Democrats and 15 or 16 Republicans in Naknek, he said. Around 900 people live in the Southwestern Alaska village, but most don't sign up with parties. The Obama supporters came from South Naknek, he said. Getting to his house from there required a pick-ride across a frozen river.

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