It’s Election Day in Alaska! The results of the Republican primaries will be very important in determining the outcome of the November elections. I wrote a more detailed look at the state of the Alaska GOP two weeks ago, but here is a quick summary of what is essentially a generational clash between incumbents who have been around for decades and a younger group of Republicans who present themselves as fiscally disciplined and ethically clean:
In the high-profile House primary, ethically challenged incumbent Rep. Don Young is facing a Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, boosted by Club for Growth (which is running tough-hitting ad like this one) and endorsed by Governor Palin. In the Senate primary, Senator Ted Stevens remains heavily favored despite his indictment and has aired ads to palliate his vulnerabilities.
The polls close at midnight, and Democrats wait for the results just as anxiously as Republicans. If Don Young survives Parnell’s challenge, the seat will be a probable pick-up given Young’s ethical problems; if Parnell prevails, his showdown with Ethan Berkowitz is sure to be tight, but the Republican would start with a narrow edge. In the Senate race, the Democrats’ dream scenario is for Ted Stevens to lose: Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich is a strong candidate who would crush either of the two low-profile Republicans who might win tonight (Dave Cuddy and Vic Vickers). If Stevens survives, it will at least give Republicans the opportunity to beg him to drop off the ballot to be replaced with a stronger candidate.
The most interesting scenario would be for Young and Stevens to both win their primaries, as the GOP would probably be very attracted to the idea of switching Stevens for Parnell in the Senate race. That would of course require Stevens to cooperate, and for now he is showing no intention to.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s selection as Obama’s running mate was a sigh of relief for Senate Democrats, who would most probably have lost a seat had he tapped Jack Reed or Evan Bayh. But questions remained: Would Biden run again (as he is up for re-election in November)? If not, would Democrats be forced to find a replacement? Biden’s spokesperson answered that yesterday: The incumbent Senator will stay on the ballot, and he is a sure bet to prevail given that his opponent is a political commentator with little hope of winning. If Biden also wins the vice-presidency, he will then proceed to resign and the outgoing (Democratic) Governor will appoint his successor.
That leaves the number of seats Democrats have to win to reach a filibuster-proof majority at 9 (10 if they kick Lieberman out of their caucus).
Finally, some news out of Oregon’s Senate race, where Republican Senator Gordon Smith has been working to shore up his numbers among Democrats and independents for months. First came an ad featuring the endorsement of Democratic state lawmakers; then came two ads in which Smith embraced Barack Obama and John Kerry. Now comes a fourth ad, and perhaps the most effective to date:
By relying on clips from nightly news that all repeat that Gordon Smith stood up to the President, called him out on the war and broke ranks with his party, this ad make the Senator look like he has acted, voted and behaved like a maverick - rather than simply air ads in the months leading to an election claiming to be close to Democratic Senators. And the DSCC’s ads that point out that Smith has been a reliable Bush vote will now be contrasted to what news anchors (voices that voters surely trust more than they would trust announcers of political ads) are saying rather than simply what Gordon Smith’s campaign is responding.
We have not seen much polling of this race as of late, but for Smith to be releasing this many ad over such an extended period of time dissociating himself from Bush and associating himself with Democrats means that (1) internal polls are telling him that he is increasing his cross-over appeals and should keep his strategy going or/and that (2) internal polls are telling him that he has a lot to worry about from his party label and his association with an unpopular President. After all, Smith’s main draw this election year is his party label and he is taking steps to address that.