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Summer scenery in Denali National Park, Alaska USA.
Denali National Park, Alaska
I'm gonna guess that freshman Sen. Mark Begich, running for re-election in quirky red Alaska, has got to like PPP's newest poll numbers. Begich has a pretty solid 49-39 job approval rating, including positive marks from 24 percent of Republicans; given the circumstances he faces, I think that's actually quite good. His head-to-heads against a bevy of potential challengers are also decent:
• 48-48 vs. Gov. Sean Parnell

• 47-41 vs. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan 47/41

• 47-39 vs. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell

• 50-40 vs. ex-Lt. Gov. Loren Leman

• 54-38 vs. ex-Gov. Sarah Palin

• 58-30 vs. 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller

While Republicans will probably find succor in the fact that their most popular would-be contender, Parnell, ties Begich out of the gate, there isn't much reason to expect him to run for Senate. That's because Parnell is also up for re-election (more on that in a bit), and he'd almost certainly cruise to a second term. (Alright, really, second-and-a-halfth term, since of course Sarah Palin bugged out halfway through her tenure.)

Palin's obviously not going to run, either; at this point, Miller and Treadwell look to be closest to making the race, though Sullivan, Leman, and others may also take the plunge. Of course, those Miller numbers look awfully delicious, but unfortunately for Democrats, Republicans seem to hate him, too. Tom Jensen also tested a hypothetical GOP primary (leaving out Parnell and Palin), and Miller, sadly, brings up the rear. Head below the fold to see how the Republican field shakes out.

Sullivan: 29
Treadwell: 23
Leman: 20
Miller: 19

Alaska, though, is a notoriously difficult state to poll. In 2008, the last time it saw a competitive race (when Begich narrowly knocked off the late Ted Stevens, and Ethan Berkowitz put a serious scare into Rep. Don Young), polling tended to badly overstate Democratic chances. Part of that may have been the unpredictable Palin effect, and part of it may just be that it's difficult to get a proper handle on the electorate in far-flung Alaska.

But if these numbers are accurate, then the question is whether Begich will be able to make it from around the 47 percent mark all the way up to that magical 50. I think he can, since he's a strong campaigner and also won't have to contend with a presidential election—and Sarah Palin—at the top of the ticket.

The governor's race, though, looks like the wipeout you'd expect. Here's how Parnell fares against some possible challengers (none of whom have actually expressed any interest in running):

• 50-41 vs. 2008 AK-AL nominee Ethan Berkowitz

• 52-34 vs. 2010 Senate nominee Scott McAdams

• 51-29 vs. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre

• 51-25 vs. state Sen. Joe Paskvan

All of these guys except Berkowitz are unknown to more than half the populace (even McAdams, who ran some memorable ads three years ago), and Parnell doesn't put up dominant figures of his own, but seeing as he starts off at 50 percent, it's hard to imagine him losing. I'd actually call that good news, since it makes it more likely Parnell will stay put—which means someone of lesser stature will have to take on Begich. And Democrats can definitely be glad of that.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 02:06 PM PST.

Also republished by Native American Netroots and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Nice poll (9+ / 0-)

    Polls in Alaska do seem to favor Democrats, I have two theories on this:
    1. the urban areas which are more liberal are easier to reach by pollsters
    2. Alaskans like to pretend they are more independent than they are, and that they are flirting with voting for a moderate Democrat, but in the home stretch the big gun conservative voices come out and the conservatives come home

    I think the conventional wisdom is that Parnell will not run for the Senate seat, as Treadwell has declared his candidacy, and people assume he cleared this with the boss first (presumably Treadwell would run for Governor if Parnell decided to try to upgrade to Senate).  

    So it seems very likely the race will be Begich vs. Treadwell.  

    The sad reality is that Alaska continues to be a Republican state, and the R's will spend millions tying Begich to "liberal" Obama.  That will be a tough fight.

    •  But, for its size, Alaska is a very small state (7+ / 0-)
      The sad reality is that Alaska continues to be a Republican state, and the R's will spend millions tying Begich to "liberal" Obama.  That will be a tough fight.
      A generic smear like this can work more easily in other states.

      But Alaska is really a small place. Politics is very personal, and it's not uncommon for the average person to know or have met the mayor, senator, governor, or other politician.

      People from the Bush travel to Anchorage or Fairbanks, and the city residents spend time in the Bush.

      If you don't know a politician, then maybe you know their family. Or you've had business interests in common. Or went to the same college.

      Or any of myriad ways a person's path crosses another.

      So, with that, it's very much harder to tie Begich to "liberal" Obama. Because:
              1) He's not tied to Obama like that
              2) Alaskans know that argument is not true

      Please proceed, governor

      by Senor Unoball on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 02:28:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Agree (9+ / 0-)

        the state of AK is small enough that most people will know the candidates very well especially Begich who was a longtime mayor of the biggest city Anchorage.  It will not be easy for the GOP to change the positive impression he has left on Alaskans.

        And on very key stat in this poll is Obama's job approval.  Obama is sporting a fairly good (for AK) raitng of 44% to 52%.   Also Obama only lost the state 41% to 55% in November which was the best performance for a Democrat in AK in 44 years (since Humphrey in '68).  Alaskans are not as negative on Obama as would be expected and that will help keep Obama from being a negative drag on Begich.

      •  I'm not so sure (3+ / 0-)

        Yes, a lot of Alaskans know their politicians, but they knew Tony Knowles when he lost to Lisa Murkowski in 2004 and this kind of tactic was (in my opinion) very effective.  

        They can run ads that say we can't afford Begich in the Senate because he will tip the balance to the (Evil) national democrats who hate guns, hate oil, and love gays (or whatever).

        This is exactly why Dean's 50 state strategy was so important, and why it would help to get rid of the electoral college.  Begich will be hurt by the lack of any pushback against the conservative noise machine up here, in a general sense.  

    •  Alaskas rural areas are largely blue (6+ / 0-)

      Look at the map, not what you'd expect:

      •  Yeah, but those areas are *really* rural (4+ / 0-)

        I have always been curious about the seeming consistent inaccuracy in AK polls.  over the last 11 years that I have been paying attention to them, they seem to always favor the D's.  

        I have assumed that this is an over sampling of Anchorage and Juneau, and an undersampling of what I should call 'medium' (not rural) locations, like Wasilla, Palmer (Although these are now huge places), Homer, Kodiak etc.  

        The bush does tend to be blue, and I would hope Begich would do well there as it looks like some of his bigger battles/wins in the Senate have been on behalf of Alaska Natives.  

        •  You need to look at election returns (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Marcus Graly

          Your opinion does not seem to be based on any real local knowledge of Alaskan politics.

          Juneau, especially downtown Juneau, votes Democratic.

          Anchorage & Fairbanks are very divided, and the latest Repuke reapportionment gerrymandered Dem voters into fewer districts so Rs could pack the state senate, which had been divided 10-10 and was run by a coalition of Dems + practical Rs, some of whom were redistricted out of office to ensure that Big Oil would have enough senate votes to cut oil taxes.

          Medium sized towns tend to vote R because of oil, logging, and mining interests in those districts.  The bush, and especially Alaska Native voters, tend to vote D, but their D legislators will caucus in the legislature with Rs.  

          The bush vote pushed Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign because Joe Miller was clearly anti-Native American, and the tribal corporations, who had worked with Lisa on land settlement and other legislation, were desperate to ensure that Miller didn't win.

          Many Alaska Dems are upset with Mark because he abandoned many of his campaign promises once elected, and now seems to be the big defender of the oil industry that will surely campaign against him.

          His attitude seems to be that Ds will have to support him (not me, I'm hoping Scott McMaster will primary him so we have a choice between a real Democrat and a DINO).

          "Everybody wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to die" --- Albert King

          by HarpboyAK on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 03:52:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't see where you're disagreeing with me (0+ / 0-)

            I said that Juneau voted D, and that Anchorage is more D than the rest of the state taken as a whole.  I was just theorizing that polls tend to over sample the more liberal sections of Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, while under sampling the medium sized towns which you state tend to vote R.  I couldn't know this without looking at the polls, not election results, but polls consistently overestimate D performance in Alaska, they have ever since I started following them in 2002.  Although, a last second lurch to the right may be a more accurate theory.

            It's true that the state legislature can be more balanced, but that's due to exceptional candidates winning the ground game in tiny districts.  

            And any primary against Begich wouldn't even be close.  Considering the fact that Begich is a long shot to win re-election, I can't imagine the value in trying to have another D candidate.    

      •  That's taken from the Presidential election... (5+ / 0-)

        The rural vote in those areas are mainly Alaska Native populations. Pretty slim populations - the red areas definitely are denser in people. I also don't think relying on the map of the Presidential election is a good way to go - Alaskans see a big difference between that national position and their own local politicians.

      •  They may APPEAR blue... (3+ / 0-)

        ...but the Alaska Natives keep returning Don Young (Moron- Alaska) to the House. They kept returning "Uncle Ted" Stevens and "Frank the Bank" Murkowski to the Senate. The State Leggie is mostly Repukes.

        Loren Leman? We called him the "Dark Lord" of Juneau. He's vehemently anti-abortion and womens rights. He hates da gey like a plague.  He's a truly evil person.

        I know Mark Begich. He's a great guy. He will listen to anyone with patience and attention. He's a great Senator, but since he's from Alaska, he's pro-oil, pro-business, pro 2nd Amendment.  Since Lisa Murkowski is also pro-choice, he's got cover there. But these and some other issues (he left the Mayorality of Anchorage with a big debt) can and will be brought up. He's going to need a LOT more support, even if Joe Miller runs.

        "Wealthy the Spirit which knows its own flight. Stealthy the Hunter who slays his own fright. Blessed is the Traveler who journeys the length of the Light."

        by CanisMaximus on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 06:12:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Although Begich being under 50% against (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Snuffleupagus, Senor Unoball

    Parnell, Sullivan and Treadwell is concerning since Begich is the incumbent, and any incumbent getting under 50 this far out means that the GOP could make up a lot of ground.

    Begich's numbers against Palin or Miller are quite good though.   So count me as being very cautious, but Begich's approval being net positive and very close to 50 is still good.

    I agree with President Obama, our country's journey is not yet complete. We must continue the work that our forebearers at Seneca Falls started, and put the Equal Rights Amendment into our Constitution.

    by pistolSO on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 02:20:31 PM PST

  •  This Is A Great Poll For Begich (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball, bear83

    for one it basically backs up a recent GOP poll.  And it shows Begich with very decent approvals and matchups.  Considering the red nature of AK, his standing is very strong.

    That Parnell can only tie Begich is likely to push him to continue on as Governor where is basically facing an easy contest.  Does he really risk the easy road or take the very hard road that might lead to him having no office come 2015?

    The other contenders would be underdogs to Begich and I think he would win by a fair amount against any of them.  The key for Begich is to vote AK for then next two years which will mean no vote "yes" on an assault weapons ban and of course still fighting to open the Artic Refuge to oil.

  •  For Begich to have a chance.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball, JFactor, ancblu

    it will come down to who the oil companies back.  Will they see benefit in having a Senator from each party like in Louisiana where they back Landrieu?  Like the gaming industry does in Nevada where Reid and Heller are backed?

    Begich is young enough a guy, only 50yo right now and given the turnover of the Senate is the last few cycles could be moving up the seniority charts.  

    Also what does Parnell want after he's termed out?  Move to Washington? If so then it might be now or never because a two term Begich would have too much seniority for the oil co's to kiss away.  

    I think Parnell would easily win if he wants it.  I think Begich has a decent shot against the rest of the field - depending on what Big Oil does.  Begich with Big Oil support wins against everybody other than Parnell.  Begich wins against Non-Parnell's if big oil largely sits out.  If Big Oil backs Begich's opponent he's second on my list of most st risk Dem Seat of 2014.  

    Keystone XL Pipeline - Canada gets the money, Asia gets the oil, America gets the toxic refinery pollution and potential for a pipeline leak ecological disaster.

    by Jacoby Jonze on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 02:40:29 PM PST

  •  Also Obama's second term - guns, climate... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball, Snuffleupagus

    Could bite Begich in the butt a bit.  I assume he'll break with the party on both - unless Murkowski votes with Dems on either issue.  

    Begich backed McAdams in 2010 - did he continue to do so ever after Murkowski got back in or was it more backing McAdams vs Miller?  Some Senators seem to have non-aggression pacts, but if Begich went after Murkowski, she'll likely return the favor in 2014 as well.

    Keystone XL Pipeline - Canada gets the money, Asia gets the oil, America gets the toxic refinery pollution and potential for a pipeline leak ecological disaster.

    by Jacoby Jonze on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 03:06:15 PM PST

  •  I wrote a diary about Begich having the lead in (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball, VirginiaBlue, ancblu

    GOP Harper's Polling poll and a long list of reasons why Begich is popular in Alaska:

    Funny Stuff at

    by poopdogcomedy on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 03:12:40 PM PST

  •  Please, please, let Sarah Run! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball, RobertInWisconsin

    Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.

    by darthstar on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 04:20:45 PM PST

  •  The problem for the GOP (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Snuffleupagus, Senor Unoball

    is that they cannot run a generic "Republican".

    If they could just find a way to pull faceless digital clip art (R) out of the TV.

    Lots of people who like faceless digital clip art (R) with no face and a generic blue suit next to that driver's license picture of a Democratic seatholder on their basic cable tv suddenly get rattled by even basic fill-in-the-blanks about so-and-so and such-and-such these days.

    Once you get beyond the abstract and hypothetical, the Teahadi start running into some serious shit with, well, their being who they are and believing in what they believe in.

    Generic "Republican" doesn't offer up words of anti-wisdom about how rape is a gift from God, or that women should just lie back and enjoy it, or that their lady plumbing magically shuts down rape sperm.

    If the GOP can't take that Alaska Senate seat, and they Tea-Fuck Up even a few of those other seats, I'm feeling a lot better about 2014 not being a disaster.

    I am from the Elizabeth Warren and Darcy Burner wing of the Democratic Party

    by LeftHandedMan on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 04:26:17 PM PST

  •  Begich and Parnell both at 50% (4+ / 0-)

    Parnell is polling the same as Begich, so, I disagree with a lot of what was noted above.  If Parnell is at 50% in his head to heads in the governors race, yes, he does have a great shot at being reelected, but, why isn't he closer to 55 or 60 percent.  

    As has been discussed here, Alaska is moderating.  This was evidenced in President Obama taking 41% of the vote here in 2012, an increase from 2008.  Since 1996, the Democrat Presidential candidate has moved from the low 30's into the low 40's.

    I certainly wouldn't color Alaska purple yet, it is trending that way.  

  •  I met Begich at Netroots Nation (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball, psychicpanda

    I am glad to have him in the Senate.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 04:32:11 PM PST

  •  Creepy fact of the day (6+ / 0-)

    Treadwell is an alumnus of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

  •  Polls right now don't mean much. Especially in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball, CanisMaximus


  •  I know one reason... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...this poll might be skewed in favor of Begich:  I participated in this poll, and I don't live in AK anymore.  We moved back to CA last July.  Somehow, PPP got our new CA home phone, and I got the robo-poll the other day.

    Begich is a good guy; I hope he manages to prevail.  ex-oil company lobbyist Parnell is Governor Conoco-Phillips, I'm afraid.

    Obama is still my guy.

    by AKguy on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 05:40:53 PM PST

    •  Forgot to mention... (0+ / 0-)

      ...a couple of questions and my answers:

      Q:  Do you think Sarah Palin should run for President?
      A:  Yes (get out the popcorn!)

      Q: Whom do you prefer, Sara Palin or Sean Parnell?
      A:  Undecided (how to choose: the grifter Palin or the oil-company shill Parnell?)

      Obama is still my guy.

      by AKguy on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 05:47:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Begich can win again in Alaska, give $ to him. (0+ / 0-)
  •  overdone HDR photography is the worst. (0+ / 0-)

    but at least these poll numbers look good.

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