A few weeks ago when I was thinking about Republican Super Tuesday 2012 I was of the same line of thought as Robert O’Brien: that Libertarian-laden Alaska and Maine could be the two states Ron Paul wins (possibly North Dakota as well). While there is still some controversy about the Maine results, I want to talk about Alaska’s caucus today:
Alaska’s electorate is notorious for challenging the Republican Establishment (if I can borrow an overused term from this year), and has shown on numerous occasions since 1959 statehood its voters love to think outside the box (if I can borrow an overused term from this decade). With a cast of characters like Mike Gravel, Jay Hammond, Nick Begich, Ted Stevens, and Ernest Gruening I always cringe a little bit when Alaska is dismissively viewed as the ultimate Western Red State. This is too simplistic: Alaska has a ban on capital punishment, for instance, and abortion was legal there before Roe vs Wade. Alaska had liberal/Libertarian marijuana laws even during the height of Reagan-era war on drugs. In 1992 Alaska had the largest Ross Perot vote in the union: 29% My alma mater is the University of Alaska–Fairbanks and on two occasions I had the opportunity to meet Gov. Walter Hickel. He was elected Alaska’s first Republican governor in 1966 and then again won a successful second term over 25 years later running on the Alaska Independence Party ticket (more on this strange party later). More recently, Lisa Murkowski made history with her successful write-in US Senate candidacy defying and defeating the Tea Party candidate (Miller) when the Republican climate elsewhere during the 2010 midterms was pure Tea Party. And then of course there is the strange and curious career of a certain former Miss Alaska first runner-up from Wasilla you may have heard of. It’s hard to remember now that she actually ousted a sitting Republican governor (Lisa’s father Frank–yes Alaskan politics can get rather incestuous) with bi-partisan support.
Alaska has more card-carrying Libertarians (proportionally) than any other US State and it goes without saying a huge proportion of Paul’s support comes from Libertarians and Libertarian-leaning independents. Yet, this “out and proud” Libertarian faction in Alaska could actually prove harmful at Paul at the caucus level: Alaska is a closed-caucus state, meaning only registered Republicans can caucus. This will skew things to a GOP caucus that more resembles other Red States–the “Wasilla faction” having a disproportionate (for Alaska) influence since the Indies, Libertarians, (and mischief-making Democrats) are barred from participating today. Still, I expect Paul to do very well in Alaska like he does in most caucus states but if I was a betting man I’d say Romney will take it, but by just a smidge. If it was an open-primary state I have no doubt Paul would handily win an easy majority of Alaska’s 27 delegates and be able to claim 1st place. As it is, though, I expect him to pick up a good number of delegates in the Last Frontier and make his time spent there (the only candidate of the remaining four) worth the trip.
Thanks to UAF here is a vintage television ad for US Senator Ernest Gruening’s write-in campaign in 1968. The former territorial governor and US senator was not as successful as Lisa Murkowski would be in 2010, however.