Rare Conservative, Establishment Candidate Leading GOP Alaska Primary

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A poll of likely Republican voters in Alaska shows that the candidate with backing from the GOP establishment — as well as the conservative grassroots — is leading the three-way race.

Thirty-two percent of respondents to the Daily Caller/Vox Populi poll, which surveyed 619 Alaska Republicans, said that if the GOP primary were held today they would vote for former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan. Twenty-three percent said they would choose Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and 15 percent favored Joe Miller, who mounted a spirited but unsuccessful senate bid in 2010.

Thirty-one percent of respondents to the poll, which was conducted June 5-9, were either undecided or said they would vote for another candidate.

Among voters who consider themselves “very conservative,” 41 percent support Sullivan, 21 percent support Treadwell and 25 percent support Miller.

Thirty-five percent of those who consider themselves “conservative” opt for Sullivan, 23 percent for Treadwell  and 15 percent for Miller.

Those numbers indicate that Sullivan is one of only a handful of Republican hopefuls to bridge the divide between the establishment wing of the GOP and its more conservative side.

To appeal to grassroots conservatives, Sullivan can point to his 2009 attorney general appointment by then-Gov. Sarah Palin, one of the leaders of the conservative grassroots. He also has an endorsement from the anti-tax conservative group Club for Growth.

On the establishment side, former Bush adviser Karl Rove and Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have thrown their support behind Sullivan, who served on Bush’s National Economic Council and National Security Council.

Sullivan, who has served in the Marines in both an active duty and reserve capacity and served as commissioner of the state’s Department of Natural Resources after his attorney general gig, has also been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which often backs the more-establishment choice than groups like Club for Growth.

Bridging the gap between the two segments of the GOP has proved increasingly difficult.

Iowa GOP Senate nominee Joni Ernst, Arkansas Rep. and GOP senate nominee Tom Cotton, and perhaps Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are some of the few to find balance in that regard.

According to Real Clear Politics, Sullivan had raised $2.7 million by March 31, dwarfing the $143,000 and $295,000 that Treadwell and Miller had collected, respectively.

Sullivan leads despite having a lower favorable rating than Treadwell, who was elected lieutenant governor in 2010. Forty-one percent of Alaska Republicans rated Sullivan favorably while 28 percent had an unfavorable view of him.

Treadwell enjoys a 44 percent favorable rating with only a 16 percent unfavorable score.

GOP voters have a generally negative view of Miller – 24 percent held a favorable opinion of him while 52 percent had a negative view of him.

The winner of the primary, to be held on Aug. 19, will square off in November against Democratic incumbent Mark Begich.

Begich is seen as vulnerable, and Republicans are looking at his seat as one of the six they need to take from Democrats in order to reclaim a majority in the senate.

In 2008, Begich only narrowly defeated six-term Republican incumbent Ted Stevens, who had been found guilty of numerous conviction charges just days before the election. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney won Alaska by a 13 point margin over President Barack Obama.

The Daily Caller-Vox Populi poll is in line with others that have been conducted so far in the race, all of which have shown Sullivan with a steady lead over Treadwell and Miller.

A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic pollster, found Sullivan with the best shot against Begich. Sullivan trailed Begich by five points in that poll: 42 percent to 37 percent.

Treadway trailed by eight points — 41 percent to 33 percent; Miller received 27 percent versus Begich’s 43 percent in the hypothetical poll, conducted last month.

A poll from the Republican pollster Magellan Strategies in April showed Sullivan leading Begich 46 to 41.

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