Unintended Consequences: Alaska's Senate and House Seats

Although Democrats are struggling with how to go on offense against her, the selection of Sarah Palin to be John McCain's running mate may have an unintended benefit for House and Senate Democrats. Alaska Senator Ted Stevens has been hobbled by a federal investigation into alleged ethics violations and will face off against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. Hopes for Stevens, who had just won the Republican primary, to fend of Begich are fading in light of ominous polls showing the mayor ahead of the veteran senator.

At first glance, Sarah Palin's presence on the national ticket would would seem to be a benefit for Alaska Republicans in that they would turn out in greater numbers to support their hometown hero. And that will probably happen. However, one of the central arguments for Palin's selection was that she was a reformer who cleaned up corruption in the state. As a result, she would be unable to endorse Stevens. Seeing that Palin is purported to represent everything that Stevens is against, it would highlight a rift between the two Republicans and likely leave Stevens with a diminished base of popular support.

The same could possibly be said of ethically challenged Congressman Don Young, who will have to hold off Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell. Palin endorsed Parnell, which, combined with Palin's nonendorsement of Stevens, burnishes Palin's profile as a bipartisan politician or an equal opportunity critic of corruption.

Palin's statewide popularity probably takes Alaska off the table for Barack Obama, even though polls have shown the race there to be more competitive than what would be expected. However, the corruption problems concerning the state's senior senator and lone congressman would likely lead to lots of ticket-splitting in which McCain-Palin would carry the state, Mark Begich would win a senate seat for Democrats, and Democrats would gain an unlikely house seat. Had Palin not been tapped by John McCain, both Stephens and Young could have made both contests local races. But the added media attention surrounding Palin will likely nationalize all statewide races and force her to choose sides. Unfortunately for Stevens and Young, that side is not Palin's side and both politicians stand to lose their races as a result.

5 comment(s):

Black Political Analysis said...

I just can't see any circumstance where Palin, as long as she's on the ticket, doesn't carry Alaska for McCain. The state is so rock-ribbed Republican that going on the offensive against Palin will only backfire there.

Brett said...

Does she need to endorse him (Ted Stevens)? I was under the impression that he was fairly popular in his home state, which wouldn't be surprising since he was really good at bringing pork back home (not as good as Byrd, but good).

It's possible that he could win his Senate seat even while being sentenced to prison time, particularly if his voting demographic is not particularly enlightened.

Khaki Elephant said...

A friend of mine tossed an interesting theory to me today. Whacky, but interesting. He said that a lot has been made concerning comparisons between Palin and Teddy Roosevelt (youth, outdoors adventurers, political inexperience, their willingness to fight corruption in their own party). Now, Word is that Roosevelt's "colleagues" wanted him to make a move to Washington allowing them ro return to the politics of corruption. Is the same true of Palin? Do the Republican pillars want her out of their state? And if she leaves, will Alaskan Republican politics return to a swirling eddy of corruption.

That's his theory.

Brett said...

It's possible, although I would hesitate to compare Palin to Teddy Roosevelt.

Anonymous said...

Say what you will Brett, but clearly she has just as much "executive experience" as Teddy Roosevelt including her time as mayor.

Am I the only one who thought it was interesting that the place where McCain annouced her on the ticket was host to a crowd of 15,000 people...over twice the size of the town in which she was mayor?

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