Could Democrats actually hold Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House? Maybe. That’s one of the questions covered in a new update from Sabato’s Crystal Ball, which is associated with the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
In the update, editors Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman outline three changes in the forecasts from Sabato’s Crystal Ball for House races from Alaska to Michigan, and all three of the changes are in favor of the Democrats. After Democratic candidate Mary Peltola surprisingly won a special election in Alaska to serve for the rest of the last term of the late Rep. Don Young (R), expectations for the ongoing race in which candidates (including Peltola) are attempting to win a full, two-year term shifted. Alaska’s Congressional elections are using a ranked choice voting system, in which voters can select multiple candidates and rank their choices. If no candidate surpasses 50 percent, the contender in last is eliminated, and their supporters’ ballots are appropriately reallocated. It’s one way of helping ensure the winner reflects a majority opinion.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball changed its rating (meaning forecast) of the Alaska Congressional race from “Safe Republican” to “Toss-up.” One of the factors Kondik and Coleman noted in their update is that both Sarah Palin and Nick Begich III — the two leading challengers Peltola is facing — refused to drop out ahead of November for the potential sake of helping consolidate the support of Alaska Republicans behind a single candidate. In the special election, some 29 percent of Begich’s supporters picked Peltola as their second choice, according to data reported by The Washington Post. Per the same data, 21 percent of those picking Begich as their first choice didn’t even pick a second choice. As Begich and Palin keep campaigning against each other ahead of November, it won’t exactly help, even if the two suddenly joining forces wouldn’t overcome all Alaskans’ aversion to Palin’s Trump-supported candidacy.
The two other House races where Sabato’s Crystal Ball announced ratings changes, moving both from “Toss-up” to “Leans Democratic,” are in Washington’s 8th Congressional District and Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District. In the latter, Rep. Peter Meijer, one of the ten House Republicans who supported impeaching Trump after the Capitol riot last year, lost the primary amid his race for re-election and isn’t returning to Congress in January. Across those two districts, the update from Sabato’s Crystal Ball notes issues including the right-wing positions held by the ex-Trump official nominated to replace Meijer and an expected “resource advantage” for both the Democratic contenders. As they’re drawn for the November elections, Biden won both districts by significant margins (of about 7 percent in Washington and 8.5 percent in Michigan). No matter the composition of the district lines, the update also notes both districts feature “blue-trending” areas.