Sarah Palin returned from the political wilderness on Friday by posting a bid for the US House of Representatives, almost 14 years since the then Governor of Alaska into the national limelight as a Republican vice presidential candidate.
It’s an odd reappearance, given that Palin largely left politics after her failed run with the late Senator John McCain in 2008. She surprised many when she decided not to complete her term as governor. resign in 2009 to then toast a media career. And although they never Completely abandoned national politics – She endorsed former President Donald Trump before the 2016 presidential primary, had her own political action committee and teased campaigns to the president and senate – until now she had not taken the plunge to run for any other office.
But now Palin has gotten back into the fray by running for Alaska’s lone seat in the House of Representatives, which is vacant, in the Aug. 16 special election after death by longtime Republican Rep. Don Young.
The question now is: Can she win? The short answer is, quite possibly – but of course we’re far from knowing. The back and forth of various factors, including Palin’s star power, her controversial status and Alaska’s new voting system, will decide or break her comeback bid.
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest positives that Palin has in her favor is her high profile, both in Alaska and nationally. It’s also relatively popular in GOP circles: a poll from late January/early February The Economist/YouGov found out that 62 percent of Republicans nationwide had a positive opinion of Palin compared to 23 percent who had a negative opinion, a net preference of +39. That’s not nearly as rosy as the +80 net favor she enjoyed with Republicans at the time of her vice presidential run, but it’s still objectively good news for Palin.
The fact that Palin is both well known and loved by Republicans is a great boon because it will help her get ahead in Alaska’s June 11 primary, in which She will face almost 50 other candidates. That’s especially important in this election, too, since Alaska will use its new voting system to do so the first time: All candidates, regardless of party, will compete together in the primary, in which each voter casts one vote, and the top four voters will advance to the August 16 general election, where voters will select Alaska’s next representative based on a league table – Election voting.
It’s hard to tell how the primary vote will be split across such a large field of candidates, but given her level of fame in the state, Palin has a very good chance of at least making the top four. Moreover, it’s not just her notoriety that works in her favor. Palin could also secure conservative Republican support, given that Trump supported them in a state he wore by 10 percentage points in 2020.
But there is also a lot to be said against them. For starters, Palin may be well known, but she’s not a popular character in Alaska. Consider an October 2021 survey from Alaska Survey Research found that only 31 percent of registered voters in Alaska had a favorable opinion of her. Even more troubling to Palin, this was identical to ASR’s finding in one Survey October 2018 of likely midterm voters. In other words, it’s possible that Palin may be the first choice for many conservative Republicans in the state, but she might struggle to garner many second-choice votes beyond that portion of the GOP. Nor does it hint at their ability to easily build a winning ranking coalition in the general election.
There’s also a chance that, despite her conservative confidence, Palin won’t necessarily corner that faction of the Republican base — or even the general election, as more than one Republican could rise from the primary. Three other high-profile GOP contenders have already emerged: State Senator Joshua Revak, a former advisor to Young; Tara Sweeney, a Inupiat WHO served in Trump’s government; and Nick Begich III, a member of the high-profile (but mostly Democratic) Alaska’s political family. Begich was already running against Young before the congressman died, he said may have a small edge to gain national support. Former state senator John Coghill is also running, despite being the former majority leader in the state senate narrowly lost renomination in his elementary school 2020.
At first glance, given the state’s red bias and Republican-leaning political environment, it seems likely that a Republican will win the special election. However, Alaska is also a strange state politically, with something of a independent streak. After all, 58 percent of registered voters in Alaska do not identify with any political partyamong the highest in the country. As such, we shouldn’t necessarily discount the Democratic and Independent candidacy, especially since it is the state’s first outing in a general election with a top-four primary and ranking election.
For their part is the Alaska Democratic Party hire back Anchorage Assembly Member Chris Constant, though other notable Democrats are running, including Rep. Adam Wool; former state MP Mary Sattler Peltola, a Yup’ik Eskimo; and indigenous activist Emil Notti, an 89-year-old Koyukon Athabascan who lost to Young in the 1973 special election for that seat. Meanwhile, a handful of independent (“bipartisan” or “undeclared” in Alaskan jargon) candidates are also running: Al Gross, an independent who lost the 2020 US Senate race as a Democratic candidate; former Republican state representative Andrew Halcro; former Alaska Deputy Attorney General and gardening columnist Jeff Lowenfels; and even one North Pole City council who changed his name to Santa Claus. Did we mention there is one a lot of of candidates?
There hasn’t been a public poll on the special primaries yet, but we do have a data point on the special general election, which Palin is a part of: A 314 Action Fund-sponsored change research poll that spent a lot to boost Gross’s campaign in 2020, found Palin and Gross running neck and neck at about 35 percent after the choice of respondents was reassigned via ranked voting. Certainly the poll included only four candidates: Palin, Gross, Revak, and another Republican who ultimately chose not to run, but the poll nevertheless shows how Palin could win in a leaderboard election. At the same time, however, it underscores how ranked voting could result in incredibly tight competition, possibly due to Palin’s poor standing among big-cap Alaskan voters.
A final issue in the Alaskan race is that the special election coincides with the regular primaries for the November general election, meaning we’ll be finding out who won the special election while also finding out which four candidates have advanced to the regular nominees are common choices. Most high-profile contenders, including Palin, have submitted or say intend to submit for the regular competition (you have until June 1st to do this). In other words, most major candidates will essentially be running for two elections at once in the coming months. Still, at least a few notable names – coghill, Halkro and nightsfor example, only stand for the special election, so that it is not impossible that the winner of the special election is not among the candidates for the regular general election.
Palin has already made history as the first woman on a GOP presidential ticket. Palin became the second woman ever to run for vice president of either major party, after Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, and it’s possible that’s not all Palin will have in common with Ferraro. Ferraro also lost her vice presidential campaign and then years later aimed for a political comebackwho ran for the US Senate seat in New York in 1992. But Ferrari came up short in this racewith less than 1 point in a lose ugly democratic elementary school; they also assembled another unsuccessful bid by the Senate 1998, where she lost the primary by a much larger margin. The outcome of Palin’s comeback remains to be seen – it’s entirely possible that Palin will win, but it’s also not without its risks, as Ferraro knew all too well.