Alaska Republicans help fuel Trump’s juggernaut. This GOP consultant thinks they’ve lost their minds.

Art Hackney, a stalwart in Republican circles, ponders Trump’s strength in Alaska and what it means. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Art Hackney, co-chair of Nikki Haley’s Alaska campaign, eyes Donald Trump’s major wins on Super Tuesday and posits a theory to explain what’s come over Republicans in Alaska and beyond: “We live in a world where a substantial number of people have lost their minds.”

“I can draw no other conclusion than that they are attracted to an authoritarian figure, maybe because of the complexity of life and the issues that we face,” said Hackney, a political consultant who has devoted his professional life to electing Republicans for more than 40 years. “And they (say) ‘Daddy says the sky is green. OK. I don’t have to think about it anymore. The sky is green. It’s not blue.’ That is the way people are. And I’m looking at people who I thought had brains.”

Alaska Republicans went all in for Donald Trump at the party-run election Tuesday. Trump won about 88% of the vote here, trouncing his last remaining Republican challenger, Haley, who on Wednesday suspended her campaign.

Hackney has worked on major Alaska campaigns. He helped the late Sen. Ted Stevens win re-election for 35 years, and Congressman Don Young, too. He led George W. Bush’s Alaska campaign. Now, Hackney say he no longer aligns with any political party.

He notes that Tuesday’s turnout was half of what it was at the last such event, in 2016, when Trump finished second to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Hackney figures non-Trump Republicans were under-represented on Tuesday.

But for Trump supporters, the day played out exactly as it should. 

Lines formed at polling places around Alaska Tuesday night, in part because the party organized few polling places and limited hours. Some people came to vote at Anchorage Grace Church in Trump hats and sweatshirts. Airline pilot Ward Hurlburt’s support for Trump was quieter than that. He said he’s aware that a lot of people don’t approve of Trump’s behavior – the details of which Hurlburt didn’t want to discuss just then.

“We’re in a church,” he said, glancing around him. But as he sees it, a president doesn’t have to have the qualities of a religious figure.

“Probably the biggest reason I’m voting for him is I don’t think he’ll take us into war,” Hurlburt said. “He’s strong. He’s not afraid of fight. But because of that I don’t think we’ll go into war with him.”

Trump is facing 91 criminal charges in multiple cases, including alleged election interference and mishandling of classified documents. Trump’s Alaska campaign leader, Kelly Tshibaka, said she’s not worried that a conviction would hurt his chances of beating President Joe Biden.

“We’ve already had some cases come out against him and instead what I see is that his numbers just keep rising. Even his favorability,” she said. “The polls ahead of Super Tuesday looked surprisingly positive, especially in some of these swing states.”

Biden faces no strong challenger either, but Alaska Democrats will vote in a party-run primary next month.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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