Forty-three Republican Senate candidates got more votes than Dan Sullivan. And he won.

August 21

Former Alaska attorney general Dan Sullivan won that state's primary on Tuesday night by an 8-percentage-point margin -- a more-than-comfortable victory that sets him up to face incumbent Sen. Mark Begich (D) in November.

Sullivan's vote total? Just over 36,000 -- enough for him to have won just one other Senate primary: Hawaii's. Sullivan, in fact, received fewer votes than 20 Republicans who lost their Senate races.

This is not a mystery in the least; Alaska is not very populous. (If Manhattan had the population density of Alaska, it would contain 37 people.) But nonetheless, particularly for the very real possibility that Sullivan could comprise 1 percent of half of Congress, it is a remarkably small number. The Republican nominee in Hawaii, Cam Cavasso, only got about 25,600 votes. But he doesn't have a chance of winning. Sullivan does.

Overall, 43 Republican candidates for the Senate got more votes than Sullivan. For every American that wanted Dan Sullivan to go to the Senate, there were nearly seven that thought eccentric Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) should go.

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Another way of looking at it: If Sullivan carried his 36,000 votes into any other primary, he would have lost nearly all of them. He would have come in fifth in Texas and sixth in Georgia.

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One last comparison: Much was made of the turnout in Virginia's 7th Congressional District, where former House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) lost to upstart David Brat. Only about 5 percent of the district was what it took for Brat to win his seat, where he'll represent 1/435th of the U.S. House. Brat won with about 180 votes fewer than Sullivan needed to take the whole state of Alaska.

The moral of the story is this: If you have 40,000 friends and family willing to move to any state to vote for you, move out of Texas. There's plenty of space in Alaska, and those votes could make more than enough difference.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.
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