State Spotlight: Alaska & Idaho

When an election rolls around, no matter the country, the big parties will know where they can rely on a safe return on votes. One such example is the Home Counties (i.e. south-east England, generally rural counties) in the United Kingdom, which the Conservative Party consistently recognises as a safe area for them. So too in the United States. Some states and congressional districts are relied upon by the two main parties to consistently return them candidates without much bother. These areas are important because it allows the parties to divert their limited recourses into more tightly contested races.

The Alaska State Capitol in Juneau

Alaska

As the northern-most state and the only state, one would need to travel through another country to reach, Alaska is something of an American exclave. Even so, it is a state that has been relied upon by the Republican Party for over fifty years. Indeed, the last time Alaska went blue was in 1964, when the state opted for Lyndon B. Johnson following the assassination of John F. Kennedy (to learn more about the relationship between LBJ and JFK click here). Indeed, since Alaska was only admitted formally into the Union in 1959, the 1964 Election was the only time that Alaska has ever voted for the Democratic Party in its entire history as a formal, recognised state.

Furthermore, the line of Alaskan Governors, while containing a handful of Democrats, is more or less a Republican list. Only four of Alaska’s eleven Governors have been Democrats, with six being Republicans, one belonging to the Alaskan Independence Party and one Independent (albeit, that Independent was a conservative who had tried to run as a Republican but failed to win the nomination). Perhaps most famous of all Alaskan Governors is Sarah Palin, who notably joined John McCain as his running-mate for the 2008 General Election. Of course, we know now that Barack Obama went on to win, but Palin certainly caught the imagination of the U.S. media and has enjoyed a degree of celebrity ever since.


In 2020, the Trump administration lifted a controversial ban on the hunting of black bear cubs and wolf cubs in the state of Alaska. This has been widely praised by gun-owning Republicans and gun lobbies, which vehemently opposed the Obama administration's 2015 ban. Despite the economy looking dire, these Republican voters will likely turn out en masse to vote against a Biden administration that would seek to ban the hunting of these cubs once again.

The population of Alaska is estimated to be around 730,000 people, up 3% from the 710,231 in the 2010 U.S. Census. This ranks Alaska as the 49th most populous state (or territory) in the U.S. overall, with only the states of Vermont and Wyoming below it. Alaska’s tiny population accounts for 0.22% of the overall population of the U.S. (inc. territories).

Despite its meagre number of inhabitants, Alaska is by far and away the biggest state (or territory) in the U.S., 1.7Mkm2 in total area. By comparison, the second-biggest state, Texas, has a square kilometre size of 700,000km2. This huge disparity in population size and total area means that Alaska is extremely sparsely populated, with only one city, Anchorage, which is the 69th most populous city in the U.S.

Alaska’s geography dictates that it is a fairly rural, and fairly secluded place. Ultimately, it is right in Republican country and given the strength of the Republican Party throughout Alaskan electoral history, and the fact that Trump's overturning of the controversial ban was widely popular, I feel confident in concluding that Alaska will stay a red state this time around – and will be entered onto the map in deep red.


The Idaho State Capitol in Boise

Idaho

Otherwise known by its official nickname, “The Gem State”, Idaho is no gem when it comes to politics. Much like their Alaskan compatriots, the last time Idaho voted for a Presidential candidate who was not a Republican was in 1964, when they opted against voting for Barry Goldwater to re-elect LBJ for a second term. Until that point, however, Idaho had been something of a swing state; opting for Theodore Roosevelt (R) in 1900 Woodrow Wilson (D) in 1916, Herbert Hoover (R) in 1928, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D) in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944.

Nevertheless, in the post-WWII era, the election of 1964 aside, Idaho has consistently and firmly voted Republican. The last time a Republican received fewer than 50% of the Idahoan electorate’s vote was in 1992, when George H. W. Bush (R) received only 42.03%, with Bill Clinton (D) taking 28.42% and Ross Perot (I) collecting a tidy 27.05% (it is worth remembering that Perot was a conservative who later joined the Republican Party).

Since 1995, the Office of Governor of Idaho has been filled by a Republican candidate. Between 1971 and 1995, the Democratic Party held the Governorship of the state consistently, but since losing it, have not managed to regain it. Furthermore, Idaho’s two Senators and their two Representatives in the House are all Republicans, making the political preferences of the Idahoans very clear.

Idaho is the 39th most populous state (inc. Puerto Rico), with a 2019 population estimate around 1.8M residents. However, similarly to Alaska, the state of Idaho spans a vast region, making it the 14th largest state in the Union, with an area of 216,443km2. With 14 people per square kilometre, Idaho finds itself the 50th most densely populated state or territory in the U.S., which like Alaska, makes it a particularly rural and thus, Republican-leaning state.

Idaho is home to two cities, Boise (98th largest city in the U.S.) and Meridian (257th), meaning that its metropolitan and urban areas are limited. Added to that, Idaho is the 11th most populous state for non-Hispanic White voters (82%) and the 2nd least populous state for non-Hispanic Black voters (0.6%). Rural white voters are a key demographic in the Republican base, whereas urban black voters are the inverse, this is a key reason behind Idaho’s electoral sympathy towards the Republicans.

To conclude with Idaho, their dependable election of Republican officials over the last fifty-years gives me adequate assurance that they will not deviate from their tried and tested route this time around. Idaho is a state that fits firmly into the Republican demographic, and for that, Idaho will be joining Alaska on the State Spotlight map in deep red.


The State Spotlight Map, As It Stands...


Key:

Democrats: Light Blue (State leaning Democratic), Medium Blue (State likely Democratic), Dark Blue (State almost certainly Democratic)

Republicans: Light Red (State leaning Republican), Medium Red (State likely Republican), Dark Red (State almost certainly Republican)

Other: Dark Gold (Uncertain which way a state may go), State Showing More Than One Colour (State awards EC Votes through mixed district system)

The Politician Independent Newspaper, created in 2020