Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday with the Senators: Alaska and North Carolina

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Today’s framed races are ones where, a year ago, few people would have thought there was a Democratic possibility.

is a bastion of Senate Republicans: the Senior Senator, Ted Stevens, has held his seat since 1968, and the Junior Senator, Lisa Murkowski took over the seat from her father in 2002, when he became Governor of the state. Frank Murkowski had held the state after ousting Mike Gravel in 1981. It would have seemed that this state would have stayed red no matter what.

Welcome to 2008, year of transformation.

The most recent poll information on this race is from May, and shows Democratic challenger Mark Begich at 51, to Stevens at 44. It should be noted that primary day in Alaska for this and other races is August 26th, and there are other Senate candidates, but these are the likely major party candidates. If you live in Alaska, and need an absentee ballot, or are new to Alaska and need to know where your polling place is, or need any other information related to this election, click here.

While Stevens has been popular in Alaska, he is facing some, um, issues this year. Most notably, the FBI investigation. It’s a long story, but the bottom line relates to corruption, misappropriation of funds, kickbacks, and bribes. Hi son is also under investigation, and an associate has been arrested and pleaded guilty. The likelihood is that everything here will continue under the radar until late August/early September and then there will be a lot more publicity on the charges.

Across the country in North Carolina, Liddy Dole should also have had an easy shot at re-election. If you look at her positives in 2007, she didn’t pass the 50% mark, and is now running 14 points ahead of Democratic challenger Kay Hagan., but only in Rasmussen’s eyes. Everywhere else, the race is tighter. This is quite a change from 6 years ago, when she led by about 50 points. However, there is more to it than base numbers (especially from Rasmussen) would indicate.

For starters, Dole is a supporter of the Lieberman-Warner Global Warming Bill, which North Carolinians overwhelmingly oppose. In addition, the NC State Democratic Party filed an ethics complaint with the Senate. Further, she has recently introduced a bill that would roll-back children’s health coverage. None of these are going to play well with the local electorate.

In both cases, though, there is one other thing to consider that is not yet reflected. That is, Obama will be putting both of these states into play, (in fact all 50 states) something that neither Kerry nor Gore did in the previous two cycles. If you have always lived in a "safe blue" or "safe red" state, you have no idea what the difference is from "safe" to living in a state in play. Alaskans and North Carolinians will be seeing more advertising, more speeches, and more storefronts. They will be receiving more mail, more phone calls, and more door knocks.

The interesting thing is that the Republicans do not have, and will not have, the money to fight. There is that little audit problem, the NRCC warning that there will be no money, and the overall red fund raising problems for everything but 527s. So, when Obama puts the states in play, the down-ticket candidates will benefit from the local Obama organization. The McCain campaign is not yet committed to even being in all 50 states.

Next Sunday, I'll be framing more Senate races. In the interim, I'll start posting on some of my pick fave House races, starting with the PA 6th (because it has been a split of under 1% for the past three cycles) and the NY 13th (you'll see why I love it so much). If you have a race you'd like framed, please drop me a note at docjess at