In the Alaska primary, Murkowski and Palin show the deep fissures in the Republican Party

WASHINGTON–The nearly continuous daylight in Alaska this month is revealing more than the state’s sprawling mountains and coastline. is also showing the deep fissures in the Republican Party.

Two candidates on the ballot for two different offices, Senator Lisa Murkowski and former Governor Sarah Palin, represent a growing divide in the GOP that is largely decided for a candidate’s loyalty to former President Donald Trump. Murkowski is fighting a Trump challenger. Palin is fighting as a challenger to Trump.

Murkowski is a moderate Republican who has crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats on some big issues. In February 2021, she was one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial, drawing the ire of the former president and other members of his party. She is the only one of the seven on the ballot this year.

Palin, once John McCain’s running mate in 2008, leans to the far right. She has been on the same page with Trump, joining him and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell last month at a “Save America” ​​rally in Anchorage. After the FBI search last week of the residence of the former president in Florida, He called the country’s top law enforcement agencies “dangerous thugs.”

Murkowski is running for his fourth full term in the Senate. Palin is running for her first term in the House. Aside from the two vying for seats in the US Capitol, they couldn’t be further apart, analysts said.

“One is competent and the other is not, and there is a chance that they will both win,” said Republican strategist Susan Del Percio.

Fighting a Trump challenger

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) speaks during a press conference on high gas prices at the US Capitol on May 18, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) speaks during a press conference on high gas prices at the US Capitol on May 18, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Murkowski, like others who voted to impeach the former president after the uprising, faces a Trump-backed opponent in State Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka. She is the only incumbent Republican senator Trump has endorsed against.

But Alaska’s new voting system, which allows voters to pick the top four in primaries and cast a nonpartisan ranked election in November, could benefit Murkowski, analysts say.

“Murkowski’s overall image in the state remains positive, while Tshibaka is a bit under water among those who know her, according to private polls, and she is the most popular politician in Alaska,” said Jessica Taylor of the Cook Political Report. partisan.

The senator has always attracted support from a broad base of voters, including independents, libertarians and even Democrats, Taylor said. That coalition helped Murkowski to a write-in victory in the 2010 general election against Tea Party candidate Joe Miller, when he lost the party’s nomination from him but then ran for the seat anyway.

Murkowski has also largely outperformed his rival, with $5.3 million in the bank compared to Tshibaka’s $808,000.

If Murkowski advances to the general election, Taylor predicts the Republican would take the seat in November.

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Fighting like a Trump challenger

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin jokes about the size of the state of Texas compared to Alaska during her appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Thursday, August 4, 2022.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin jokes about the size of the state of Texas compared to Alaska during her appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Thursday, August 4, 2022.

The special election to succeed the late Rep. Don Young, who died in March, is more contentious on the Republican side, where Palin and software executive Nick Begich III are locked in a tight race and could head for a runoff against the Democrat. Mary Peltola.

Begich has campaigned with Palin’s former in-laws and has run ads saying “vote smart, not Sarah.” She responded in an Anchorage Daily News op-ed by calling Begich a “dumb-pamby Republican establishment in name only.”

While Alaska’s new voting system might help Murkowski, it might hurt Palin.

“Alaska’s new electoral format puts polarizing Palin, who has a high floor of support but a low ceiling, at a disadvantage,” according to Dave Wasserman of Cook Political Report. “Begich could be the favourite, albeit a slight one, but the vagaries of the qualifying pick mean an upset cannot be ruled out.”

Palin, like most Trump-backed Republicans running for office, has spent much of her candidacy defending the former president and his allies. He recently shared a photo of her and rep Scott Perry, R-Pa., who said his cell phone was seized by the FBI last week, and expressed his support for him and the condemnation of the FBI and the Department of Justice.

Perry has been linked to Trump’s efforts annul the presidential elections in Georgia Y asked for a presidential pardon, according to the testimony of January 6. The congressman has denied asking for a pardon.

Palin called Perry “a good, decent man and a great leader in Congress.”

“This is the kind of abuse that reminds us that the thugs in power must be stopped at the polls this fall,” Palin said. “Once this is done, I will stand with Scott Perry and Republican leaders to investigate and dismantle the Biden regime’s abuse of power. starting with the corruption in the Justice Department and the FBI. Their leaders’ days in office are numbered.”

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A fractured Republican Party

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower on August 10, 2022 in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower on August 10, 2022 in New York City.

The intra-partisan primaries with Murkowski and Palin amplify the dividing line in the Republican Party, where members fight for control and direction of the party.

Former Congressman Joe Walsh was a member of the Tea Party before Trumpism prompted him to leave the Republican Party. He was elected in Illinois during the 2010 Tea Party wave and lost two years later in a redrewd district to then-Representative. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat who is now a senator.

He said the Tea Party “undoubtedly” helped carry Trump. But what started out as a base of voters who felt the establishment had been ignoring them for years turned into an angrier base that Trump tapped into in 2016, Walsh said.

“The base has been radicalized. They no longer believe in the truth. They no longer believe in democracy. They want a strong man to bring back 1950s America to them,” he said. “He really is a cult.”

The Trump-centric divide in the party has also played out elsewhere during the midterms. In the Georgia Republican primary, for example, the former president backed David Perdue to take on incumbent Governor Brian Kemp, who was in turn backed by Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence.

The gap has even reached positions that were once minor. The positions of secretary of state, previously obscure functions that were largely carried out by the electoral administration, have become a new battlefield between those who endorse Trump’s falsehoods about voter fraud and those who see an existential danger to democracy.

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When Trump addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on Aug. 6, he described his party as he has before: one with patriots on the front lines. Patriots is the name he uses for his most ardent supporters.

“You are the loyal defenders of our heritage, our freedom, our culture, our Constitution and our God-given rights. You never stop fighting for America and I will never stop fighting for you,” he said.

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Candy Woodall is a congressional reporter for USA TODAY. You can reach her at cwoodall@usatoday.com or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: In Alaska primaries, Murkowski and Palin show deepening Republican fissures

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