Should Democrats Go For It in Alaska?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 26 2010 11:28 AM

Should Democrats Go For It in Alaska?

Let's say you're a Democratic strategist. Things look rotten. You are in a dogfight for California's U.S. Senate seat. California! Where Barack Obama racked up the best margin for a Democratic presidential candidate since FDR in 1936.

All of a sudden a black swan emerges in Alaska, which you didn't even have on your map. You don't have to run against incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. You will either run against Joe Miller, a smart conservative lawyer who's never won an election, or run in a three-way race against Miller and Murkowski on a third party ticket. You double check who won your primary: Scott McAdams, the mayor of Sitka. You know nothing about him, and DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse doesn't even remember his name when asked on Wednesday, which leads to the Pillars of DC Conventional Wisdom assuming McAdams is a nothing who must be pushed aside for a well-known name.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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But is he? Oh, he only has around $5,000 in the bank, but his opponent has $85,000. How much can you raise with an e-mail or online ad telling people this is a way to sock it to Sarah Palin? Hundreds of thousands of dollars, obviously. And how many ads can you buy? Plenty, for very little money. If you grab the airwaves in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau, all cheap markets, you can introduce your candidate right away. How cheap? A "point" of advertising in each market costs, respectively, $36, $10, and $18.

Do you reach a point where $250,000 in Alaska is worth more than $250,000 to bail out Blanche Lincoln? I think you're already there.

Is this happening? I don't see it yet, which surprises me (how hard is that e-mail to send?), but the Democrats have less of a mess on their hands than Republicans, who may not have a candidate nailed down until Sept. 8. Here, via Philip Munger , is video of McAdams in action yesterday.

Also, thanks in advance to the Palin supporters who read this analysis, which assumes that the Democrats are screwed most everywhere, as part of a liberal media conspiracy to deride their former governor. I look forward to your positive assessments of my looks and character.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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