Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Analysis: Vote results defy single explanation

WASHINGTON — She should have seen this coming.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is on the verge of becoming the seventh member of Congress ousted in a primary this year — caught in a swirl of political forces combining national angst about Washington with local issues and personalities that are defying conventional wisdom.

With almost all the votes counted, Murkowski trailed Republican primary challenger Joe Miller by 1,960 votes out of nearly 90,000 cast. She was hoping for a tide of support in absentee ballots to overcome the surprising lead amassed by Miller, a "tea party"-backed challenger who had the support of former Gov. Sarah Palin.

Murkowski would be the fourth Republican denied nomination for another term this year.

Anger at incumbents and political insiders isn't universal, however. One top incumbent managed to survive a primary challenge Tuesday — Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona easily defeated former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

Local campaigns, issues, money and personality have had a huge impact, clouding any effort to draw clear national-trend conclusions from disparate races.

The Alaska race, for example, was colored by a long clash between Palin and the Murkowski family. In addition, a ballot referendum to require parental notification for teen abortions helped draw out tea party backers who favored Miller.

The Republican gubernatorial primary in Florida included a torrent of ads from free-spending millionaire Rick Scott that helped him defeat political veteran Bill McCollum. However, the state's Democratic Senate primary went the other way, when free-spending millionaire Jeff Greene was unable to defeat Rep. Kendrick Meek, the party establishment's choice.

What that means is that Tuesday's primary results don't add up to much of a theme that can foretell general election results in November, despite widespread efforts by pundits to find one.

"Every time we try to generalize from one of these elections, we fall flat on our faces," said independent analyst Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.

"Is it an anti-incumbent message? If you want to combine 100,000 voters in Alaska with a small number in Utah, maybe so," he said, referring to the defeat earlier this year of Republican Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah.

"Can you say that millionaires can buy elections? With Rick Scott, you could say yes. With Jeff Greene, you'd have to say no. The one thing I would draw from this: There is a lot of anger out there, but we didn't need the primary elections to tell us that."

Independent analyst Stuart Rothenberg agreed.

"There is an undercurrent of anger, and it's aimed at politics in Washington," said the editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. "It's particularly located on the right side of the spectrum and among most conservative voters."

In Alaska, Miller challenged Murkowski as not conservative enough.

Murkowski voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program — the bank bailout — and has supported abortion rights.

Miller was backed by tea party activists, whose support apparently came in under the radar in the final days, after polls just weeks ago showed Murkowski with a large lead.

A key element in Alaska — Murkowski chose not to use her much larger cache of campaign cash to attack Miller.

In Arizona, McCain didn't make that mistake.

McCain campaigned hard, and flooded the airwaves with TV ads early slamming Hayworth.

As of Aug. 4, he had outspent Hayworth $8.9 million to $2.6 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Analysis: Vote results defy single explanation 08/25/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Judge throws out $458,000 condo sale, says Clearwater attorney tricked bidders

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold on Monday threw out the $458,100 sale of a gulf-front condo because of what he called an "unscrupulous" and "conniving" scheme to trick bidders at a foreclosure auction.

    John Houde, left, whose Orlando copany was the high  bidder June 8 at the foreclosure auction of a Redington Beach condo, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground,  during a hearing Monday before Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold.  [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times ]
  2. Vision Zero plan to make Hillsborough roads safer to be unveiled


    TAMPA — Vision Zero, the coalition trying to make Hillsborough County safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, is set to unveil its action plan on Tuesday morning.

    Members of the Vision Zero workshop cross Hillsborough Avenue and Kelly Road during a on-street audit of Town 'N Country roads in January. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  3. Pasco EDC names business incubator head in Dade City, will open second site


    Pasco County economic development officials are busy reigniting their business start-up resources following the departure earlier this year of Krista Covey, who ran the Pasco Economic Development Council's SMARTStart business incubator in Dade City.

    Andrew Romaner was promoted this summer to serve as program director of the Dade City SMARTStart Entrepreneur Center, a start-up incubator service of the Pasco Economic Development Council. He succeeds Krista Covey, who relocated to Texas for another startup position. [Courtesy of Pasco EDC]
  4. Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, center, attends a hearing on Monday Circuit Court Judge Jack St. Arnold at the Pinellas County Courthouse in Clearwater. The hearing was requested by attorneys representing John Houde, left, who filed a motion to invalidate the sale of a $458,000 Redington Beach condo, a deal orchestrated by Skelton, who stands accused of deliberately misleading bidders in a the June 8 foreclosure auction. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  5. Sarasota GOP names Dick Cheney 'Statesman of the Year'


    Former Vice President Dick Cheney will be honored as "Statesman of Year" by the Sarasota GOP, a title that twice went to Donald Trump.

    Dick and Liz Cheney