Josh Patashnik and Nate Silver have some thoughts on the apparent re-election of Stevens and Young here in the great state of Asshat. Silver notes that so far, it appears that turnout here was significantly lower than it was in 2004 — possibly as high as a 14 percent drop — a fact that, if true, would undermine theories about the so-called “Palin effect,” about which everyone has been jabbering for the past 24 hours. Turnout was high in the Mat-Su Valley outside Anchorage, which happens to be where Wasilla is located, but I don’t necessarily think that voter support for Palin had a huge coattail effect for Stevens and Young. Mark Begich did really well in areas of the state (like Fairbanks) where support for Stevens had always been really high as well as in a number of areas where McCain and Palin pulled in big numbers. Silver’s hypothesis about lower-than-expected Democratic turnout might be correct — and would be a huge disappointment if it turns out to have been the case. But as I’ve pointed out before, polling in Alaska has always been really weird; in every election I’ve seen, Republican candidates always do better on election day than the final polls project. This was one reason I had no hope that Silver’s projection (98% likelihood of a Begich win) would pan out.
I also think that Stevens, especially, managed to pull in a huge sympathy vote in the last few days of the campaign. The campaign clotted the airwaves with ads, and Lisa Murkowski chipped in with several TV spots claiming that Uncle Ted Wuz Robbed and essentially promising that his convictions would be overturned. It was a moronic argument, but it probably worked.
That said, I don’t give a lot of weight to Patashnik’s theory that a lot of folks voted for Stevens on the assumption that he might be a placeholder for Sarah Palin in the event he’s forced to resign. I’ve talked to a lot of Stevens supporters over the past couple of days, and none of them have framed their vote in that sort of strategic way. Support for Senator Intertubes was based on the sense that (a) he’d given 40 years (and a shitload of money from the lower 48) to Alaska, and massage chairs and home renovations aside, he deserved one more term, and/or (b) he’d been the victim of an unjust prosecution and will be exonerated in due time.