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Joe Miller, You Will Be Challenged

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Fifty-one Republican candidates have run in the 19 Alaska U.S. Senate primaries conducted since 1960

joemiller10.jpgFailed 2010 Alaska U.S. Senate Republican nominee Joe Miller ended speculation on his future political plans on Sunday by announcing he was forming an exploratory committee to launch another bid in 2014.

Miller was one of a handful of 2010 insurgent GOP Senate nominees (e.g. Nevada's Sharron Angle, Delaware's Christine O'Donnell) whose primary victories over establishment candidates jeopardized the party's goal of taking control of the nation's upper legislative chamber that cycle.

Miller narrowly defeated Alaska incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary that August, but a historic write-in campaign by Murkowski ultimately held the seat for the Republican Party that November with a plurality of the vote.

But although Miller could command a large swath of tea party support again in a 2014 campaign, no one expects the anti-establishment candidate to walk away with the nomination - at least not without a challenge that is.

And Alaskan electoral history bears that out.

Over the decades, Alaska's primary system has varied from single ballot open primaries, to blanket primaries, to party-rule ballot primaries.

Of the 19 primaries conducted since 1960, 51 Republicans have appeared on the ballot, and in only three instances did a GOPer go unchallenged.

Each of those three cycles involved an incumbent Republican Senator: Ted Stevens in 1972 and 1978 and Frank Murkowski in 1986.

The 2014 contest will mark the first time without a Republican incumbent on Alaska's U.S. Senate primary ballot since 1980.

During the six cycles in which a Republican incumbent was not running for reelection from 1960-1980, a total of 21 GOPers vied for the nomination, or 3.5 per cycle.

Miller's preference - other than facing no primary challengers - is probably to see as many Republicans as possible run for the seat, particularly known GOP officeholders.

That would help ensure that the establishment vote could be split into smaller and smaller fractions while Miller attempts to hold on to his core Tea Party support and eke out a victory.

By contrast, if Miller goes head-to-head with, say, potential candidate Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, he may find himself on the wrong end of a much closer race.

The winner of the Republican primary will face one-term Democratic incumbent Mark Begich in November 2014.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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