High floor, low ceiling

Politico reports that “Lisa Murkowski’s victory is all but sewn up.” With nearly all of the write-in votes counted, Murkowski had 92,715 votes as of Tuesday evening, while Joe Miller had 90,468. Murkowski’s total did not include the thousands of challenged ballots that were, at least provisionally, counted for her. With that vote, her lead would be about 10,000 votes.
In short, Murkowski is ahead right now even if Miller wins all of his challenges. There are still some uncounted absentee ballots, but apparently not enough of them to change the calculus.
During the latter stages of the campaign, in response to posts I wrote dutifully reporting poll results with Murkowski in the lead, I received several emails from readers in Alaska who insisted I was missing the big picture. The big picture was that Miller had an unshakable core of supporters — the Palin base — that amounted to 35 percent. With that number as a floor, his victory, I was told, was nearly assured.
That argument, coupled with what I thought would be the difficulty of translating Murkowski’s poll support into actual write-in votes, kept me from predicting a Murkowski victory. But it did occur to me that, unless the Democrat made a good showing, 35 percent probably wouldn’t be enough to win the election; it would probably take closer to 40 percent.
Miller got his 35 percent (35.5, I think). But it wasn’t enough. “Total write-in” received about 40 percent, and about 38 percent of that vote looks like it will be counted for Murkowski.
Miller, then, had a high floor but a low ceiling. The same, I fear, may be true of Sarah Palin — who helped catapult Joe Miller into what once looked like a commanding position in this race — if she runs for president and makes it to the general election.

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