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GOP vote finalized, Rick Santorum picks up an Alaska delegate

Eric Christopher Adams
Aaron Jansen illustration

Alaska's 2012 Republican presidential poll turnout exceeded that of the last election, according to party chairman Randy Ruedrich, who announced Tuesday that canvassing of the March 6 ballots had been completed.

Based on the final tally, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney narrowly eked out a victory over Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, in raw votes cast, but the two tied in the number of Alaska GOP delegates they'll take to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer.

Here's the final vote count, as reported by Ruedrich:

  • Romney -- 4,554 votes (8 delegates)
  • Santorum -- 4,254 votes (8 delegates)
  • Ron Paul -- 3,410 votes (6 delegates)
  • Newt Gingrich -- 1,878 votes (2 delegates)

How did Santorum pull off such an upset, when he didn't appear to have much support in Alaska or any organization here going into the Super Tuesday voting?

In a post-vote interview with Alaska Dispatch, Ruedrich credited Santorum's previous campaigning here in Alaska, on behalf of Sen. Lisa Murkowski back in 2004, when she was running to hold her seat against former Gov. Tony Knowles.

"Santorum in 2004 came to Alaska and spent a significant number of days in Alaska … to make sure Murkowski beat Tony Knowles," Ruedrich said on March 7. "That earned him a level of respect for many people who came out to vote for him" on Super Tuesday.

Santorum did particularly well in traditionally conservative regions of the state, including Kenai Peninsula communities of Kenai, Soldotna and Homer, Ruedrich said, while Romney, as expected, carried more moderate regions, including Juneau and the Southeast.

"Conservatives in Juneau are probably not as conservative as the conservatives on the Kenai," Ruedrich said.

Alaska's reddest region, districts of Fairbanks and Fort Wainwright, went solidly for Ron Paul, who carried "by a considerable margin over both Romney and Santorum," Ruedrich said after the vote.

The 24 delegates divvied among the four contenders are "bound to support their candidate for the first two rounds of balloting" at the convention, Aug. 27-30, according to state and national GOP rules, Ruedrich said Tuesday. Three other "super-delegate" types -- Alaska Republican Party officials -- will also be in play at the convention, are unbound to any candidate and get to vote for whomever they want. And based on the close finish in delegate count between Romney, Santorum and Paul, the three unpledged delegates could theoretically tip Alaska for anyone.

Of course, if none of the contenders can muster 1,144 delegates after the first few rounds of voting at the convention, all hell could break loose and who knows who may end up leading the Republican presidential ticket. Maybe even a rather popular national politician from the small town of Wasilla, Alaska.

Contact Eric Christopher Adams at eric(at)alaskadispatch.com