comments_image Comments

Could Alaska Go to the Dems?

This post first appeared on Booman Tribune. Before there were tea parties there was the rise of the progressive blogosphere. We had our own insurgent candidates. Most notably, we had Jon Tester, Jim Webb, Donna Edwards, and Ned Lamont. There were others, of course, but mostly they didn't win. I don't think any of them could properly be considered radicals. But they weren't the first choices of the Democratic power structure. When Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in the 2006 primary, the power structure begrudgingly got behind him, but they did nothing like this:
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) also reacted coldly to [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski’s decision [to wage a write-in campaign]. In a terse statement Friday night, he reported Murkowski has been removed as vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference.“By choosing to run a campaign against the Republican nominee, she no longer has my support for serving in any leadership roles, and I have accepted her letter of resignation from Senate leadership,” McConnell said in the statement. Republicans said the decision wasn’t personal, but made clear they are cutting their ties. “It’s strictly business,” a senior GOP aide said. “She’s running against a Republican. She’s no longer one of us. Period.”
I don't think we necessarily need to behave like Republicans, but it makes me a little envious to see how they respect the decisions of their base voters. Lieberman wasn't a member of the leadership, so the situations aren't exactly comparable. But what about Lieberman's decision to openly campaign for John McCain in 2008? Maybe a little stronger message in 2006 and he wouldn't have dared to pull that stunt. Maybe he wouldn't even have been a sitting senator in 2008 if the Democrats had sent the message to Connecticut voters that he was persona non grata with their conference. Meanwhile, Murkowski's decision has the Republicans nervous that she'll split the vote and hand the seat to Democrat Scott McAdams. I don't know how likely that is, but it will be difficult for the anti-pork Joe Miller to withstand a combined opposition from most established figures and institutions in the state. (For some background on Alaska's reliance on the federal government, this Sept 2nd piece from the Christian Science Monitor is pretty good). The only senator to ever win a write-in campaign was Strom Thurmond in 1954, and he had the backing of South Carolina's governor. Thurmond's issue was Jim Crow, which he wanted to sustain in the South. In some ways, Alaska faces a similar choice. Are they going to continue to enjoy their way of life, which relies heavily on their influence in the U.S. Senate? Or, are they going to elect someone who pledges to disavow earmarks and wants Alaska to develop more self-reliance? Alaska's lone representative in the House is Don Young (R-AK), who is known as a master of the appropriations process, just like the late-Sen. Ted Stevens. Freshman Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) is a more traditional politician, and he is still building his seniority. But you can expect him to campaign hard against Miller and what his proposals would mean for Alaskan's standard of living. And, regardless of the challenges of winning a write-in campaign, expect Lisa Murkowski to buy a lot of advertising on the same subject. I don't think present polling means anything. We have to imagine Miller taking all this heat and criticism and still maintaining his support. That's not easy to envision. If his numbers crater, as I expect they will, the only question is who winds up benefitting the most.