The state where Barack Obama most improved his performance from 2008 was Alaska. He lost it by “only” 14 percentage points this year, considerably less than his 22-point margin of defeat in 2008.
Part of the reason is that the former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, was on the Republican ticket in 2008 but was not this year. That probably doesn’t explain all of the shift, however.
Consider that in 2000 — also without Ms. Palin on the ballot — the Democratic nominee, Al Gore, lost Alaska by 31 points.
There are reasons to think that Alaska could continue to become more competitive in the coming years.
One factor is that Alaska’s vote is quite elastic, meaning that it can shift quite a bit from year to year. In 2008, 43 percent of voters in Alaska identified themselves as independents on the exit poll, among the highest percentages in the country. (There was no exit polling in Alaska in 2012.)
Of the remaining voters in the state, far more were Republicans (37 percent) than Democrats (20 percent), meaning that a Republican candidate will ordinarily have a clear advantage if the independent vote is split about evenly. But the right sort of Democrat, who wins the majority of independents, can be competitive there, and indeed some Democrats (like Alaska’s Democratic senator, Mark Begich) can win statewide office there under the right conditions.
Alaska’s population is also changing; between 2010 and 2011, Alaska had the third-highest population growth rate in the country, trailing only Texas and Utah.
Where are those new Alaskans coming from? Many are from liberal states on the West Coast. Between 2005 and 2009, about 4,300 Californians moved to Alaska per year, making it the top state for domestic emigration to Alaska. So did 4,200 residents per year from Washington and 2,200 from Oregon.
Texas, where about 2,700 people emigrated to Alaska each year, also ranked high on the list, perhaps in part because of each state’s ties to the fossil fuels industry (along with Texas’ large population). But the new residents of Alaska are most likely considerably more liberal than the rest of the state’s population, over all.
And here I thought I couldn't like Nate Silver any more than I already do. This is just about the nicest thing that anybody has ever said about my state, that we could actually break the conservative bonds that bind us.
A couple of things to note.
One is that Alaska once WAS a bastion of liberalism, and had some of the most progressive laws on the books. Of course that was before we became slaves to big oil, and were inundated with the conservative minded parasites that attach themselves to fossil fuel production.
The other is that our elections are not exactly trustworthy. We have long struggled with corruption, election fraud, and a virtually useless local media.
Personally I think we are still far more liberal than our elections indicate. However since there is fraud, and voter apathy due to that whole "Alaska always votes Republican" thing, we do not yet have a clear idea of just how the demographics break down.
The other thing to consider is that we only have three piddly electoral points to contribute to a Presidential election. So any hope of outside media attention helping to clean up our politics is iffy at best.
However having said all of that. I would LOVE the opportunity for Alaska to shake off its conservative constraints and actually become a state where the outcome of a election was not predetermined and the people could once again become excited with the opportunity to fully participate in the future of our country.
Besides does anybody think our process is any more corrupt than Ohio or Florida? Probably not, so if THEY can become more competitive, than so can we!