In a race that would have become a Democrat-only affair three weeks ago, independent nominee Jamey Little is closing in on Republican Mia Love in her 2nd Congressional District, according to preliminary results from the American National Election Studies.
Professor Daniel Gillion of the University of Virginia, author of the study, said the race’s new dynamics reflect changing dynamics among independents in Alaska, which have long been among the most conservative states in the country. The 2016 presidential race also laid bare key differences between the race in Alaska and its smaller brother, Utah, which long went Republican with ease. And there’s been a lot of movement among independents in Alaska.
“It’s probably become more competitive for her,” Mr. Gillion said of Ms. Love, who won the 2016 Republican nomination in a crowded primary by 8 percentage points.
“In this environment, a healthy majority in Alaska is 45 percent, so it does come down to an independent vote,” he said.
According to early ANES results, the Alaska survey found that 43 percent of respondents leaned Republican and another 42 percent leaned Democratic. Little is polling at 19 percent, while Mr. Love has struggled to regain her footing after video footage of her saying she supported the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh became an issue.
Asked whether Mr. Kavanaugh would be a bad or good judge, 33 percent of respondents said he would be a “good” judge, 29 percent said he would be a “bad” judge, and 28 percent said he would be neither good nor bad.
But even though Ms. Love’s numbers are down, Mr. Gillion said, Alaska is not “much different” in favor of Democrats than it was in the past.
“Our numbers are pretty similar, which means Republicans are really well-positioned,” he said.
Even so, Mr. Gillion added, there is movement among independents toward Mr. Little. “He’s closing a little bit. I don’t think it’s in any kind of definitive sense.”
Mr. Gillion’s study also looked at Alaska state legislative races in 2018. A candidate in that race, Republican Jaret Johnson, won only 10 percent of the vote on his way to victory. Republicans have a majority of the seats, and they hope to maintain that control.
Republicans also have an edge at the federal level in Alaska, where they control both chambers of the state legislature.
“In that context, the outcomes here become even more consequential,” Mr. Gillion said.
Meanwhile, the party machine in Montana is helping Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, hold a narrow lead in her battle for the Democratic nomination for governor. Democrat Matt Rosendale, the state auditor, is running third.