A new Quinnipiac poll released this morning shows Dr. Ben Carson surging in Iowa.
According to the poll Carson now has the support of 28% of voters and an 8-point lead over Donald Trump who garnered only 20% support.That represents a flip of positions from Quinnipiac’s September survey that had Trump at 27% and Carson at 21%.
That news comes on the heels of a trip to Anchorage by Carson campaign official Russ Walker who came put Carson on the ballot for the Alaska Republican Party’s presidential preference poll (see primary) and meet with potential in-state supporters. Walker, the Western States Director for Carson’s campaign said the requirements to get on the March 1st ballot include submitting to the state party the required candidate form and fee, as well as a petition with 50 signatures of registered Alaska Republicans, no more than 10 of which can live in the same state house district.
Aside from simply connecting with the state party to ensure ballot access for Dr. Carson, Walker also met with potent
ial supporters. One of those meetings was a gathering put together by the Midnight Sun Republican Women’s Club at a southside coffee shop. There were only about a dozen or so attendees, but those in attendance, and this Republican women’s club in general, is chock-full of top-tier political activists the Carson campaign will need in Alaska to be successful.
During the meeting Walker said currently the campaign is focused on the basics, getting on the ballot in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 5 US territories, staffing up in battleground states, and of course fundraising. One of the campaign’s main challenges, according to Walker, is that Carson, being an “Outsider” conservative candidate tends to attract conservative supporters who aren’t necessarily registered as Republicans. He said at their campaign volunteer trainings they see as much as 25% aren’t registered Republicans. This means, based on local state voting rules, they may not be able to vote in Republican primaries.
That is a dynamic the Carson campaign is likely to see in Alaska. According to Alaska Division of Elections, of the 509,000 registered voters in Alaska the largest political party is Republican at 135,000. However, the largest group, by far, are those registered as undeclared or non-partisan. Those groups are twice the size of the Republican Party at 277,000. So there is a very good chance a large swath of the most popular Republican candidates’ support won’t actually be Republicans.
Luckily for those campaigns, while the Alaska Republican Party opposes same day voter registration in state elections, they do allow people to change their voter registration to identify as a Republican at the polling location for the party’s own presidential preference poll. Now the onus is on campaigns, such as Carson’s, to get that word out to their supporters.
Most of the questions at the event were glowing of Carson, and none of them were Alaska specific. One person did, ask if the low-key candidate was tough enough to go after Hillary Clinton in the way likely necessary to beat her in the general election. Walker responded that by directing the audience to Carson’s speech at the national prayer breakfast where he said Carson, with President Obama sitting just feet away, “Didn’t pull a single punch.” I watched the speech and it was an impressive performance, although Carson doesn’t take any real shots at Obama.
Walker himself had a pretty good performance at the gathering. He was honest about what he knew and didn’t know of his candidate’s positions while effectively conveying the general narrative of the campaign. I’m sure we’ll see more of him and other Presidential campaign operatives as Alaska Republicans begin to make their mind up who they will vote for on March 1st.