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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Alaska

Palin Endorses Murkowski's GOP Challenger

Sarah Palin has endorsed in several contested GOP primaries this year, but never one so close to home.

In a posting on Facebook this afternoon, the former Alaska governor announces her support for Joe Miller, a Republican who is challenging incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).

Contested primaries are so good for America's political process! Competition makes everyone work harder, be more efficient, debate clearer, and produce more. So, Alaskans should be thrilled that Joe Miller jumped in the GOP race and is ready, willing, and able to serve us as our next United States Senator.

I'm proud to join so many other long-time Alaskans in supporting Joe Miller in the upcoming Alaska Republican Primary. Joe is a true Commonsense Constitutional Conservative, and we're thankful he and his family are willing to offer us a choice in Alaskan leadership.

Almost a year ago to the date, Palin's SarahPAC contributed $5,000 to Murkowski's campaign, amid speculation that she might enter the race herself (Palin was still serving as governor at the time). Palin now acknowledges that contribution, but says times have changed.

As she and I discussed, this was an attempt to reassure the Senator that I, as Alaska's governor, had no intention of jumping into the race. Though the media has tried to portray some sort of feud or bad blood between Lisa and myself, such is not the case. I've always wished her well, but it is my firm belief that we need a bold reformer who is not afraid to stand up to special interests and take on the tough challenges of our time. Joe Miller has stepped forward. I am thankful for his willingness to serve.

The "bad blood" refers perhaps to the fact that Palin in 2006 challenged Murkowski's father, then-Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), in the GOP primary for governor. She won that race and ultimately the seat, while Murkowski finished third. Murkowski had appointed his daughter to the Senate seat he vacated to become governor; Palin was believed to have been under consideration for that appointment as well.

Continue reading "Palin Endorses Murkowski's GOP Challenger" »

Stevens Concedes

Faced with an insurmountable vote deficit, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens conceded the race today to Democratic challenger Mark Begich. By last night, Stevens trailed by more than 3,700 votes with only some 2,500 still left to count.

"Given the number of ballots that remain to be counted, it is apparent the election has been decided and Mayor Begich has been elected," said Stevens, in a statement released by his campaign office.

Seeking a seventh full term after being appointed to the Senate in 1968, Stevens was convicted on seven felony corruption counts in federal court just days before the election. Had he won, Stevens faced possible expulsion from the Senate, which would have allowed Gov. Sarah Palin to appoint a successor.

With Stevens leaving the Senate, Alaskans may come to miss the "Stevens money" -- federal dollars for local projects -- he brought home.

"I am proud of the campaign we ran and regret that the outcome was not what we had hoped for," Stevens said. "I am deeply grateful to Alaskans for allowing me to serve them for 40 years in the U.S. Senate. It has been the greatest honor of my life to work with Alaskans of all political persuasions to make this state that we all love a better place."

--Kyle Trygstad

Stevens Convicted

Today's seven-count felony conviction of Republican Senator Ted Stevens made him the fifth sitting senator ever to be convicted of a crime. Three of the previous four resigned their seats before being expelled, while the fourth died, according to the Senate Historical Office.

The Alaska Democratic Party has called for Stevens' resignation, though the six-term senator will likely be defeated for re-election before that happens. "Senator Stevens' felony convictions are very serious and he should immediately resign from the United States Senate," said Patti Higgins, the Alaska Democratic Party chair. "He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway and lied to Alaskans about it. Alaskans deserve better from their public officials. It's time for us to elect an ethical and honest Senator who will move this state forward."

Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich currently leads by six-tenths of a point in the RCP Average.

--Kyle Trygstad

AK: Begich +1

A new Ivan Moore Research poll conducted for the Anchorage Press and the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman shows Senator Ted Stevens has no reason to give up just yet. The survey polled 500 likely voters between 10/17-19 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. In the Senate race, Stevens and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich were tested, while Rep. Don Young was tested against Democrat Ethan Berkowitz.

General Election Matchup
Begich.........46 (-3 from last, 10/6)
Stevens........45 (no change)

Berkowitz......51 (no change)
Young..........42 (+1)

Stevens' entire re-election prospects hinge on a Washington, D.C. jury's decision in his conspiracy trial. The jurors got the case today.

AK: Races Closing

Ted Stevens isn't done yet, according to a new poll, and even Rep. Don Young is creeping back into competition. The Research 2000 poll, conducted 10/14-16, surveyed 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Stevens and Mark Begich, the Democratic nominee, were tested, alongside the House matchup between Young and Ethan Berkowitz.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Begich.......48 / 86 / 11 / 55 / 44 / 52 (-2 from last, 9/17)
Stevens......46 / 7 / 85 / 39 / 51 / 41 (+2)

Berkowitz....50 / 85 / 14 / 58 / 46 / 54 (-3)
Young........44 / 8 / 79 / 38 / 50 / 38 (+5)

Stevens' corruption trial continues in Washington, and if he is vindicated in the next week, he could zip ahead of Democrat Begich. Republicans aren't finished in Alaska just yet.

AK: Begich +4, Under 50

What happens if Ted Stevens wins acquittal? It has to worry Democrats that their nominee, Mark Begich, is below 50% in most recent polls.

The latest poll, conducted by Ivan Moore Research, surveyed 500 likely voters between 10/3-6 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Stevens and Begich were tested in the Senate race, while Rep. Don Young and Democratic nominee Ethan Berkowitz were pitted against each other in the House contest.

General Election Matchup
Begich........49 (no change from last, 9/2)
Stevens.......45 (-1)

Berkowtiz.....51 (-3)
Young.........42 (+4)

Young lacks the opportunity for vinidcation an acquittal would give Stevens, making his deficit much more difficult to overcome.

AK: Begich (D) +2

Forget the trial, is Ted Stevens making a comeback? The Senate's longest-serving Republican is clawing back, a new poll out this week suggests. The Ivan Moore Research (D) poll, conducted 9/20-22, surveyed 500 registered voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Stevens and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich were tested.

General Election Matchup
Begich........48 (-1 from last, 9/2)
Stevens.......46 (no change)

That margin is about the same as the last poll Moore conducted, marking a dramatic comeback from this summer when Begich, the Democratic nominee, led Stevens by 17 points.

Moore also surveyed the state's House race, and again, Republican Don Young is catching up to Democratic former state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz.

General Election Matchup
Berkowitz....49 (-5 from last, 9/2)
Young........45 (+8)

Even as Stevens started to close the gap earlier this month, Young remained 17 points down in the September 2 survey. Could it be the Sarah Palin effect in Alaska? A Republican oversample? Or could it be, as Moore suggests, that Berkowitz and Begich need to start proving they could fill Young's and Stevens' shoes if they were sent to Washington?

AK: Begich (D) +6

Apparently, putting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on the Republican presidential ticket was enough to take the state's electoral votes out of play, but it may not be enough to save embattled Republicans running for re-election.

A new poll conducted by Research 2000 for the liberal blog DailyKos surveyed 600 likely voters between 9/15-17 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Incumbent Ted Stevens, the Republican, and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, the Democrat, were tested in the race for Senate, while Rep. Don Young was matched up against former state House Democratic Leader Ethan Berkowitz.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Berkowitz......53 / 87 / 19 / 60 / 48 / 58
Young..........39 / 6 / 75 / 31 / 45 / 33

Begich.........50 / 87 / 14 / 57 / 46 / 54
Stevens........44 / 6 / 82 / 36 / 49 / 39

McCain/Palin...55 / 12 / 86 / 54 / 59 / 51
Obama/Biden....38 / 84 / 7 / 38 / 34 / 42

Barack Obama's early interest in competing in Alaska has all but disappeared. Obama's campaign initially sent staffers to the state, and some polls even showed the Democrat within striking distance of John McCain. But once McCain picked Palin, the Republican ticket jumped to what looks like an insurmountable lead.

Just because the state's electoral votes look like a lock for McCain doesn't mean the state's Congressional delegation is safe. The investigation into influence-peddling by oil services company VECO Corp. has taken a measurable toll on both Stevens and Young. 58% of Alaska voters see Young in a negative light, while 56% see Stevens unfavorably.

Stevens, under indictment for offenses related to the VECO scandal, faces a trial in which jury selection begins on Monday. Young has not been indicted, but is reportedly still under investigation.

Young won his primary last month by just a few hundred votes, as his primary opponent, Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, conceded earlier this week. Parnell would have been the stronger general election candidate, though. Included in this survey, Berkowitz led Parnell by a 48%-43% margin.

Expect the next survey to show Young closing the gap with Berkowitz at least a little bit. Because it took three weeks for Parnell to concede, this poll included matchups between Berkowitz and both Republicans. Polls taken before primaries tend to capture a fractured base. After the post-primary healing process, the party with the primary usually gets a boost.

Berkowitz and Begich are seen favorably by 56% of Alaska voters, according to the poll.

AK: Begich +3

Forget the indictment, Senator Ted Stevens is still Uncle Ted to Alaska voters. A new poll suggests Democrats will have a tougher time getting rid of the long-time incumbent than once thought.

The survey, conducted 8/30-9/2 by Ivan Moore Research, a Democratic-leaning firm, polled 500 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. In the Senate contest, Stevens was matched up against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. In the House race, Young and fellow Republican Sean Parnell are matched up with former State House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz. Young currently leads Parnell by 239 votes out of more than 100,000 cast, though late absentees have until Wednesday to trickle in.

General Election Matchup
Begich............49 (-7 since last, 8/12)
Stevens...........46 (+7)

Berkowitz.........54 (+3)
Young.............37 (-4)

Parnell...........49 (+3)
Berkowitz.........38 (-4)

McCain/Palin......54
Obama/Biden.......35

If Young's narrow lead in the primary holds up, Democrats are in great position to take the seat from the GOP. But if Parnell, the state's Lieutenant Governor, somehow pulls out a come-from-behind win, national Democrats could become a scarce presence in Alaska. Parnell, like GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, is highly popular among independent voters in the state (The same poll, by the way, showed Palin's home-state approval rating at 82% positive to just 13% negative).

The results from the Senate race show a big Stevens bounce-back after his July 29 indictment and his July 31 not guilty plea. In a heavily Republican state, even Uncle Ted gets the benefit of the doubt, meaning Begich is going to have to run a nearly flawless campaign to steal a six-year term.

The great unanswered question: What effect will Palin's presence atop the ticket have on Stevens' and Young's performance? Palin took what might have been a close presidential race in the state (At least Barack Obama was interested in investing there) and made it a blowout. So conventional wisdom would suggest that Palin helps the Republican ticket.

But Palin, Young and Stevens aren't the closest of political allies. Palin endorsed Parnell in his primary against Young, and she has pointedly refused to say whether she will endorse, or even vote for, Stevens (Requests for comments from The Scorecard went unanswered as well). Any Republican voting for McCain because of Palin was likely coming out to vote anyway. Any independent voter who switches his or her vote because of the governor might be moved by the reform mantra of the GOP ticket. In that case, might Palin actually help Democrats in Alaska, or at least be a wash?

Stevens Takes A Hit

Looking for a metric on how much the indictment of Ted Stevens has affected the Alaska Senate race? Alaska pollster Ivan Moore has an answer, thanks to a well-timed poll and an equally fast follow-up. The answer, as one might imagine, is that Stevens now looks even more damaged than he was just a week ago.

The polls, conducted by Ivan Moore Research, were conducted 7/18-22 among 504 likely voters for a margin of error +/- 4.4% and 7/30-31, after the indictment, among 413 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.8%. Stevens was tested against former State Rep. Dave Cuddy in the Republican primary and against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich in the general.

Primary Election Matchup
(7/31 / 7/22)
Stevens........59 / 70
Cuddy...........19 / 21

General Election Matchup
(7/31 / 7/22)
Begich..........56 / 51
Stevens........35 / 43

(7/22 sample only)
McCain..........47
Obama..........44

Stevens' approval rating is down eleven points in the same period; just 44% see him positively, down from 55% two weeks before. His negative ratings are up from 38% to 48% between the two polls.

Stevens, eight points down just two weeks ago, trails by twenty-one now. Still, Cuddy, who ran against Stevens in the 1996 primary, has yet to benefit from Stevens' slide. With just three weeks to go until the August 26 primary, Cuddy or businessman Vic Vickers, who is up with his own advertisements, have a long way to go if they are to prevent Democrats from stealing the seat.

As Begich pulls farther ahead, an emerging question then becomes whether Alaska voters are willing to vote for the Democrat atop the ticket. With Obama trailing by just three points, well within the margin of error, his investment in the state looks more prescient at the moment.

Dems Lead In AK

Given two strong pickup opportunities, Democrats have already made Alaska a big priority, and a new survey shows the party is already leading two long-time Republican incumbents. For Republicans, the good news is that incumbent Rep. Don Young doesn't look likely to win his primary, and that Senator Ted Stevens remains more popular than his House colleague.

The survey, taken for DailyKos by non-partisan pollster Research 2000, polled 600 likely voters between 7/14-16 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Stevens and his Democratic opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, were tested, as were Young and likely Democratic nominee Ethan Berkowitz, the former House Minority Leader. The party identification breakdown was 31% Republican, 20% Democratic and 49% independent or other.

General Election Matchups
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Begich........47 / 83 / 13 / 53 / 43 / 51
Stevens......45 / 7 / 81 / 38 / 50 / 40

Berkowitz....51 / 86 / 18 / 58 / 47 / 55
Young..........40 / 6 / 71 / 34 / 45 / 35

McCain.........51 / 10 / 82 / 48 / 54 / 48
Obama.........41 / 86 / 8 / 43 / 39 / 43

Both races look encouraging for Democrats, but the poll doesn't tell the whole story. In the Senate race, evidence of the state's overwhelming Republican tilt show through; Stevens wins 45% of the vote despite the fact that just 36% say they have a favorable opinion of the incumbent, while 61% have an unfavorable impression.

And in the House race, it looks increasingly possible that Young will not even be the Republican nominee. A strong challenge from Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, a fellow Republican, could deprive Democrats of an ethically-wounded foe in November. Only 37% see Young favorably, while 61% view him unfavorably.

Berkowitz and Begich are viewed much more positively, both with 52% of the state seeing them in a favorable light. Just 29% see Berkowitz unfavorably, while only 27% said the same about Begich. Still, the narrowness of both races that feature popular challengers to unpopular incumbents demonstrates that Democrats have their work cut out for them.

Poll Has AK Dems Up

A new survey taken for an independent group shows Senator Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, both long-time Republican incumbents, trailing in their bids for re-election, thanks in large part to a scandal involving an oil services corporation that has already ensnared several GOP state legislatures. The poll has good news for Democrats, though in Young's case the party may not get the opportunity to make their case.

The poll, conducted by Hellenthal and Associates for lobbyist Sam Kito, surveyed 269 likely voters between 5/6-10 for a margin of error of +/- 6%. In the Senate contest, Stevens and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich were tested. In the House race, Young, Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, a Republican, and former House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, the likely Democratic nominee, were included. 27% of respondents were registered Republicans, while 22% were registered Democrats, and the remaining 51% were unregistered.

General Election Matchups
Begich..........51
Stevens........44

Berkowitz.....58
Young...........38

Parnell...........43
Berkowitz.....38

Stevens has yet to attract a credible challenger in the Senate GOP primary, giving Democrats a flawed Republican to run against. But Parnell's surprise entry into the Republican primary against Young could throw a cog in the works. Parnell leads Young in a hypothetical primary matchup by a small margin (the sample, though, is so small that the margin of error would make results virtually meaningless), and if he wins the primary, the significant anti-Young vote would be free to head back to the new Republican nominee in November.

The disparity in the Senate contest is similar to that in the House race. 58% of respondents had a positive view of Begich, the two-term mayor of the state's largest city, while just 16% see him unfavorably. 49% see Stevens favorably, while 40% say they view him unfavorably. The poll is the first of recently released data to show Stevens with a net favorable rating, but just a nine-point gap for a six-term incumbent is not comforting.

In the House race, the story also comes down to favorable ratings. Berkowitz (41% positive, 13% negative), his party's nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2006, and Parnell (46% positive, 8% negative), the candidate who beat him, each have high favorable-to-unfavorable ratios. Young, on the other hand, is viewed positively by just 35% of those surveyed, and negatively by a whopping 52%.

No wonder, too, that first-term Governor Sarah Palin is generating internet-based buzz about a vice presidential nomination. After ousting fellow Republican Frank Murkowski two years ago, the governor, who had her fifth child in April, enjoys an incredible 82% positive rating, while just 10% don't see her in a good light.

Is AK A First-Tier Race?

Public corruption investigations, which have brought down a number of state lawmakers in Alaska over the past few years, are having their effect on races higher up on the ticket, a new poll shows. Perhaps more importantly, national Democrats now have a fifth race to put in their own top tier, seats they could win from Republicans in November.

The poll, conducted by independent pollster Research 2000 for DailyKos, was conducted 5/12-14 among 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Incumbent Republican Ted Stevens and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, the likely Democratic candidate, were tested. The survey sample was 32% Republican, 20% Democratic and 48% independent or otherwise affiliated.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Begich 48 / 84 / 14 / 56 / 44 / 52
Stevens 43 / 7 / 76 / 36 / 48 / 38

Stevens, whose home was raided by the FBI in connection to a corruption case surrounding an oil services company, has been tarnished by the scandal. Just 38% of Alaskans view him favorably, while 58% see him in an unfavorable light. On the other hand, Begich is widely viewed positively; 52% of voters see him favorably, with just 25% saying they have an unfavorable impression of the mayor of the state's largest city.

If President Bush is to have an impact on down-ballot races, Stevens could face even more trouble. Just 39% of Alaska voters approve of Bush's job performance, while 61% disapprove, in a state that gave Bush a twenty-five point margin of victory in 2004. But Stevens, who has been a senator since 1968 and is lauded as the third leg of the Alaskan economy, is known widely enough that he can likely avoid the president's coattails.

The question national and Alaska Democrats will push now, though, is whether Stevens can avoid the coattails of VECO Corp., the company that has already sent a good number of GOP legislators to jail.

Begich Makes It Official

Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich will run for Senate against long-time incumbent Republican Ted Stevens, according to a press release from his exploratory committee. While an ordinary race against a man often seen as one of three pillars of the Alaskan economy would otherwise be a suicide mission, Stevens has faced increasing heat for his role in an investigation surrounding a controversial oil services company, giving Democrat Begich a strong chance to steal a seat.

Begich, who is in his fifth year as mayor of Alaska's largest city, raised $267,000 since forming the exploratory body in late February, leaving him with $204,000 in the bank. He was national Democrats' top choice to face Stevens, and the only public poll of the race, conducted in early December, showed him leading Stevens by a six-point margin.

Stevens does not appear to be willing to roll over and play dead just yet. He raised $590,000 in the first quarter and has $1.32 million in the bank, though he has been spending quite a bit of money as well. In the last three months, Stevens spent more than $300,000 to go along with his fundraising haul. He has signaled that his argument for another term will rest on seniority, and given that he has secured millions -- perhaps billions -- for the state during his 40 years in office, it could be a powerful line of reasoning.

Experience, too, is an advantage Stevens has over Begich; the state's senior senator was first elected to the upper chamber when Begich was just six years old, in 1968.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has also shown it is not taking the race lightly. They have launched several websites, including BegichBaggage.com and MarkBegichFacts.info, dumping more opposition research against the Anchorage mayor than any other Democrat they are targeting this year. Stevens, perhaps anticipating attacks from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has asked that the NRSC not advertise in such a fashion, though so far his pleas are falling on deaf ears.

The real problem is that Stevens, fellow Republican Don Young, the state's lone member of Congress, and several state legislators are all wrapped up in the investigation surrounding VECO Corp. Several of the company's top executives have pleaded guilty, as have several former members of the State House and Senate. While Stevens and Young have not been indicted or accused of wrong-doing, both have undergone intense scrutiny. Stevens' home was raided by FBI agents last year, and Young's campaign committee has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

While Stevens has no primary opponent yet, the Alaska Republican Party is in something of a rebuilding phase. In 2006, Sarah Palin beat incumbent Governor Frank Murkowski, a fellow Republican, easily in the primary. Now Palin's Lieutenant Governor, Sean Parnell, is challenging Young in the state's GOP primary, and there is no guarantee that a similar challenger won't emerge for Stevens. Unless Stevens is beaten in a primary, though, Begich has one of the best chances in the country to take a Senate seat back for Democrats.

Dems Get Top AK Recruit

DSCC chairman Chuck Schumer must be dancing in the streets this morning as his party scored a top recruit in the race against long-time Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. Politico's Josh Kraushaar reports Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who has long been pursued as a promising recruit, will announce his intentions to run against Stevens in a 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time press conference.

The announcement is not unexpected: The DSCC has talked Begich up for months, and the mayor recently joined other city leaders in Washington. National Republicans have anticipated his entry into the race as well, launching a site called BegichBaggage.com. A poll conducted in December by Maryland-based Research 2000 also seemed to encourage a Begich run, as he led by six points in a heavily Republican state.

Stevens, under investigation for his role in a scandal surrounding VECO Corp., an oil services company whose top officials are cooperating with authorities, has work to do to return to voters' good graces. The poll showed just 39% of Alaskans have a favorable opinion of Stevens, while 58% say they view him unfavorably. Still, despite the uphill battle, Stevens filed for re-election last week, though he declined reporters' questions about the investigation.

Begich, along with impressive poll numbers, is not an ordinary Alaska Democrat. His father, Nick, served as Alaska's lone Congressman until 1972, when, while traveling around the state with then-House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, his plane crashed. The younger Begich was elected mayor of the state's largest city in a 2003 special election and re-elected in 2006 by a wide 15-point margin over his chief opponent -- we kid you not -- Jack Frost.

Begich's entry into the race gives Democrats a strong chance to take back a seat they have not held since before Stevens' appointment, in 1968. Stevens is only the second person to hold the seat since Alaska gained statehood, in 1959, while four people have held the state's other Senate seat, currently occupied by Republican Lisa Murkowski.

Stevens Files For Re-Election

It has been said that Alaska has three industries: Tourism, oil and Ted Stevens. The influential 84 year old Republican Senator, who already holds the GOP record for Senate service, filed papers to run for re-election this year, this in spite of an ongoing federal investigation into his relationship with an oil services company. Stevens, appointed to the Senate in 1968, is seeking a seventh full term and may face the most difficult re-election of his career.

The investigation, which centers on testimony from VECO Corp. executives Bill Allen and Rick Smith, has already snagged several Republican state legislators. Allen has been a huge donor to Stevens' campaigns, and reportedly oversaw renovations on Stevens' house, outside Anchorage. Agents from the IRS and the FBI raided Stevens' house in July.

Speaking with reporters after filing, Stevens refused to discuss the investigation, the Anchorage Daily News reported, though the issue will certainly play a role in the campaign. Stevens maintains his innocence, and he refuses to talk about the investigation in order, he says, to avoid the appearance of trying to influence it.

Stevens has never won election with less than 60%, and re-election bids in 1996 and 2002 saw him win 77% and 78%, respectively. This time around, after much-publicized public relations snafus like the $250 million Bridge to Nowhere, Democrats sense an opportunity to steal a seat. National Democrats hope to entice Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich to run, but though Begich was in Washington recently, he has not announced a decision.

Stevens' colleague in the state's lone House seat, Republican Rep. Don Young, is also said to be involved in the investigation, and Democrats think they have a strong challenger in former State House Democratic Leader Ethan Berkowitz.

Both Begich and Berkowitz would have better chances than virtually any other Democrat in Alaska. A poll taken in early December, by Maryland-based independent pollster Del Ali, showed Begich leading Stevens by six points, thanks to a twenty-point lead among independents. Berkowitz led Young by seven points and led by twenty-two among independents.

Though they are long-time incumbents, Alaskans don't have very favorable impressions of either Stevens, who has a 39% approval rating compared with 58% who disapprove, or Young, whose 40%-54% split is only slightly better. If Republicans can't convince the two, who have represented the state for a combined 75 years, to step aside, the party may end up losing both seats.

Young, Stevens In Trouble

DailyKos is out with another Research 2000 poll today, and the results are not good for Republicans in the great snowy north. R2K tested embattled Republican Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young alongside Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich and former House Democratic leader Ethan Berkowitz. Berkowitz has already announced his campaign against Young, while Begich continues to mull a bid against Stevens.

The poll, conducted 12/3-6, surveyed 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. The sample reflects the heavily Republican tilt of the state: 33% of those responding were Republicans, compared with just 19% of Democrats. The remaining 48% called themselves independent or identified with another political party.

General Election Matchups
(All / Men / Wom / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Begich 47 / 43 / 51 / 81 / 7 / 55
Stevens 41 / 46 / 36 / 7 / 81 / 35

Berkowitz 49 / 46 / 52 / 83 / 18 / 57
Young 42 / 46 / 38 / 8 / 72 / 35

There's a reason Berkowitz and Begich are out-pacing Young and Stevens: Alaska voters simply don't see the two incumbents in a very favorable light:

Fav/Unfav
Begich 48 / 19
Berkowitz 45 / 18
Young 40 / 54
Stevens 39 / 58

The numbers are pretty incredible: Independents choose both challengers by wide margins, though the state's Republican Party still maintains an incredible size advantage. But there is no guarantee that Young or Stevens will make another bid, or even be the GOP nominee come next year. Facing scandals, Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski looked to present Democrats with a great pick-up opportunity in 2006. That is, until Alaska Republicans did not renominate him, instead choosing Sarah Palin in his place.

Palin went on to win the general election over former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, who until Murkowski got routed was the favorite to win the seat. If Republicans choose other candidates over Stevens and Young, they are likely to be rewarded. Barring a new candidate, Democrats have the best chance they've seen in Alaska for more than a generation.

Updating The Exchange

We're updating our Senate race rankings today, which we have failed to do since late September. If you take one lesson from the list, it's that Democrats are in even better position than they were a few months ago: More seats are open, more pickups are possible and the party is still outraising its Republican counterparts.

Still, watch the middle tier races: Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) are in trouble, but they seem with each passing day to be getting safer. All three are bucking Republican leadership at times, and while Democrats have good candidates against each, the difference between a bad year for the GOP and a terrible year will be the difference between these three surviving or failing.

Races we considered for the number 10 spot: Kentucky, where Democrats are hungry for the potential to knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has a lot of money, though, and in a presidential year, as Kentucky goes for the GOP nominee, it's hard to imagine any but the best candidate (Rep. Ben Chandler?) having so much as a snowball's chance of beating McConnell. Polls show Chandler and State Auditor Crit Luallen performing well against the incumbent, but both have said they won't run. South Dakota, where Sen. Tim Johnson is still recovering from a stroke, should be a good opportunity for Republicans. So far, though, they have only managed to recruit a State Representative who reported just $37,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter, nowhere close to Johnson's $2 million account. Because of his health troubles, Johnson had been a retirement threat. But he announced his re-election bid in mid-October, and with an underfunded challenger, he will likely sail to another six year term in 2008.

(Correction: We wrote that State Representative Joel Dykstra had raised $37,000 in the third quarter. In fact, he raised $82,000 in the third quarter and retained $37,000 cash on hand. We regret the error and any resulting confusion.

Races we dropped from the Exchange: South Dakota, Nebraska.

Races we added to the Exchange: New Mexico, Mississippi

As always, agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts. And don't forget to head over to RCP's Fantasy '08 to trade contracts based on your own rankings.


10. Mississippi (R-Open): Resigning Sen. Trent Lott is leaving big shoes to fill, and Republicans might actually have some trouble filling them. As Gov. Haley Barbour looks around for a Republican to hold the seat, Rep. Roger Wicker is seen as the front-runner. Wicker has plenty of cash on hand, giving him a lead over any potential Democratic opponent. Democrats are working on former Attorney General Mike Moore and former Gov. Ronny Musgrove, both of whom would be top picks to steal the seat. But any Democrat will find it difficult, if not impossible, to win in this most ruby red of states. If someone like Hillary Clinton is at the top of the ticket, subtract five more points from the eventual Democratic nominee. (Last: Not ranked)

9. Alaska (R-Stevens): If your home is raided by the FBI, guilty or not, it's probably time to call it a career. Indeed, if Ted Stevens is actually the GOP nominee, this race will move higher up on Democrats' priority list. The DSCC is doing all it can to recruit Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. Other Republicans are said to be interested in a run for the seat, whether or not Stevens makes a bid. If Stevens is no longer in office, the state will have lost both its long-time Senators since 2002, while Rep. Don Young is tied up in the same scandal involving VECO Corp. Without Young, the state's position in Congress will be significantly impacted. In fact, should Stevens and Young run for re-election, that's likely to be a central tenant of their campaign. But will voters want seniority or new elected officials, like Gov. Sarah Palin, who aren't viewed as corrupt? (Last: 10)

8. Maine (R-Collins): Susan Collins was supposed to be this year's Lincoln Chafee: Popular and moderate, but a Republican in a very blue state. Democrats got their best possible candidate in Rep. Tom Allen, but polls in October have showed Collins holding consistently huge leads of twenty points or so. The race is going to tighten, and Allen is going to have the money to compete. But to the NRSC's relief, Collins is in great position a little less than a year out. Watch her rely heavily on her friend and colleague, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, if the race narrows. (Last: 6)

7. Minnesota (R-Coleman): Comedian Al Franken and wealthy attorney Mike Ciresi both say they will abide by the results of a convention among Minnesota Democrats. But several times over the last few years, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has faced nasty fights in post-convention primaries as candidates fail to live up to their promises. If Franken and Ciresi duke it out in a primary, Franken is likely to win but come away severely wounded. In a general, many will say that Franken is simply too goofy to be a Senator. But he's acting serious, and Minnesota is the same state that elected Jesse Ventura as governor. Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, to his credit, is apparently taking the threat seriously. One thing to watch: The Democratic convention in Denver will likely help Mark Udall (see number 5, below). With a badly damaged GOP brand, will the Republican convention being held in Minneapolis be a good thing or a bad thing for Coleman? The answer might determine whether he gets re-elected. (Last: 8)

6. Oregon (R-Smith): Democrats are coalescing around House Speaker Jeff Merkley, though he still faces attorney Steve Novick in a primary. Merkley, who has his sights set on incumbent Gordon Smith, faces an uphill battle: Smith is doing all he can to inoculate himself from charges that he might, in fact, be a Republican. Smith has turned against the war in Iraq, recently voted for cloture on the farm bill, something 45 Republicans voted against, and makes his opposition to the Bush Administration known at every turn. But he is a Republican in a blue state during a presidential year. Merkley will need some national help if he is to compete with Smith on a financial level, but this year, that is not impossible. (Last: 5)

5. Colorado (R-Open): Rep. Mark Udall is hoping to build on a Democratic foundation that has overtaken this increasingly purple state in recent years. Democrats now control the state legislature, the majority of the Congressional delegation and the governor's mansion, and Udall hopes to take back a second Senate seat from retiring Sen. Wayne Allard. Republicans recruited previous Senate candidate and former Rep. Bob Schaffer, and while he's not the party's perfect candidate, he spent the summer raising good money and, to the surprise of many, was within one point of Udall in a mid-September poll. Still, with the Colorado landscape favoring Democrats so much, Udall remains the favorite. This is a district where the DSCC's huge money advantage over the NRSC could come into serious play. (Last: 3)

4. Louisiana (D-Landrieu): Down on the Bayou, incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu is undeniably in trouble. A Zogby poll taken for the two-term senator's challenger, Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy, a former Democrat, shows Kennedy up by seven points. That's not a huge margin for an internal poll, but any survey that shows an incumbent trailing a challenger is significant news. Landrieu had more than $3.4 million cash on hand after the third quarter, while Kennedy hadn't begun raising money. Still, the Democrat who lost several hundred thousand members of her base remains the Republicans' best target for a pickup. (Last: 4)

3. New Hampshire (R-Sununu): A poll in early October showed the rematch between Republican Sen. John Sununu and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen overwhelmingly favoring Shaheen, the Democrat. Shaheen faces no primary and will benefit from her organization, which has stayed largely intact since her departure from the governor's mansion. Gov. John Lynch, a close ally, has kept that organization in good practice, winning with a higher percentage of votes than any governor in the state's history in 2006. Lynch is unlikely to get a strong challenger in 2008, and after the Democratic wave that swept the state last year, Shaheen remains a favorite to take the seat back for Democrats. (Last: 1)

2. New Mexico (R-Open): If Republicans can get bad news about New Mexico, bet that they will. When Sen. Pete Domenici announced his retirement, moderate Albuquerque Rep. Heather Wilson looked like a great candidate to retain the seat for the GOP. Then, dominoes started falling: Conservative Rep. Steve Pearce joined Wilson in the GOP primary. Rep. Tom Udall, a popular Democrat who will be well-funded, reconsidered his earlier decision not to run and jumped into the race, giving the party their strongest candidate to take the seat. But Udall's path wasn't entirely clear: He faced Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez in the primary. Until, that is, Chavez dropped his bid, giving Udall a clear shot. News can't get any worse for Republicans in New Mexico. But if it can, it probably will. (Last: Not ranked)

1. Virginia (R-Open): Mark Warner seems headed straight for the Senate, even if he faces another former governor in the general election. Polls repeatedly show Warner beating Jim Gilmore by twenty points or more, and there's a simple reason: Gilmore was elected when Virginia was a Republican state. Warner helped nudge the state to purple status, where it currently resides. After Gilmore forced Northern Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, a moderate, out of the race, Virginia Republicans will struggle to appeal even to GOP-leaning independents. The party can all but kiss the Senate seat goodbye. (Last: 2)

Alaska Chessboard Becomes Clearer

Former State Representative Ethan Berkowitz today announced his plans to run against Alaska Congressman Don Young, the Republican who has represented the state in the House since 1973. Young has been associated with scandals currently roiling Alaska's Republican Party, and is widely considered to be thinking about retiring.

Despite his long history of bringing home the bacon for Alaska, Young won re-election last year with just 56% against an opponent who once ran for governor on the Green Party line. Berkowitz, the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2006, wins high praise from national Democrats, who see the seat as a possible pickup.

The move also means another Democratic recruitment target will be free for Senate Democrats. With scandal surrounding Senator Ted Stevens, Democrats smell an open seat. The DSCC has long sought to recruit Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, seen as the most popular Democrat in the state, to run either against the weakened incumbent or for an open seat.

Begich has yet to make a decision on the Senate race. National Democrats are said to covet his entry into the race, and rumor had it he and Berkowitz were deciding between themselves which would enter the House race and which would go for Stevens' seat. If Begich enters the Senate race, the DSCC and the DCCC will have scored major recruiting coups.