- Associated Press - Saturday, November 14, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Most of the Alaska delegates free to support whomever they want as the Democrats’ nominee for president aren’t saying who they think would be the strongest Republican candidate.

Only one of the state’s four superdelegates, Ian Olson, offered a name when asked which Republican would be the strongest opponent in the general election - Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Two of the superdelegates deemed the GOP field weak or unimpressive; another said she hoped Republicans would base their decision on who they think would be a good leader.

Nationally, The Associated Press contacted all 712 superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention next summer, and asked them which Republican they thought would be their party’s strongest opponent in the general election. Superdelegates can support the candidate of their choice regardless of what happens in their states’ primaries or caucuses. Superdelegates are members of Congress and other elected officials, party leaders and members of the Democratic National Committee.

Of the 176 superdelegates who answered the question, 65 said Marco Rubio, a first-term U.S. senator from Florida, would be the Democrats’ strongest opponent; 45 said Kasich and 36 said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Businessman Donald Trump was mentioned by 16 Democratic superdelegates as the candidate who would be the strongest opponent, with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, cited by four each.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would be the strongest GOP opponent in the eyes of two Democratic superdelegates, while businesswoman Carly Fiorina and former New York Gov. George Pataki each got a vote. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the race, got a vote, too, as did Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee.

Alaska’s superdelegates are Olson of Fairbanks; Kim Metcalfe of Juneau; Casey Steinau of Big Lake and state party chair Mike Wenstrup. Wenstrup is the only one of the four to have a preferred Democratic candidate already. Given his position in the party, though, he isn’t publicly endorsing at this point.

Olson thinks former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton could beat any of the Republican candidates but said Kasich would be one of the most challenging opponents for Democrats because he has a “more moderate record” and has been governor of a state that is not held strongly by one party or the other. “So he has worked across party lines, and his record reflects that,” Olson said.

Not that Olson agrees with Kasich’s entire record. He also doesn’t think he’s electable in the GOP primary.

“I think he’s probably the strongest” Republican, Olson said. “I’d be hard-pressed to figure out a No. 2.”

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