As the list of states without strong, competitive Democratic candidates shrinks, eyes are increasingly on Alaska, where Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich is facing intense lobbying to take on corrupt and soon-to-be-indicted Sen. Ted "Tubes" Stevens.
Schumer has put in his best hard sell.
Begich recently spent a day in Washington, D.C., meeting with seven U.S. senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Finance Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, and Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chuck Schumer of New York.
Begich told The Associated Press that meetings lasted at least 30 minutes with each senator. He said each lawmaker urged him to take on Stevens, who has held office since 1968.
Begich, 45, said he hasn't yet accepted the challenge.
"It's humbling in a lot of ways because these meetings were not an in-and-out shuffle," he said. "Their message was clear: they would love for me to serve in the U.S. Senate.
"As the day progressed, it closed out with Reid and Schumer, and it was a hard sell at that point."
A source close to Begich told me that Begich asked some of those Senators about schools in the area -- evidence that he's seriously considering the bid.
I talked to multiple sources in DC and Alaska with insight into this race, and the consensus is that Begich is seriously leaning toward a run, but is in no hurry to announce. An Alaska source says the final decision will be made in the next two months, so as to give another candidate a chance if he passes. So I think we can assume if we hear nothing from Begich by the end of the calendar year, it's because he's decided to make the race.
In that eventuality, Begich plans on holding off as late as he can to make an announcement. His camp is confident in Begich's fundraising capabilities that, coupled with the low cost of television in the state, he can be most effective in a short race (it's how he ran and won his mayoral race after two previous losses). The filing deadline in Alaska is June 2, 2008, though he's not expected to wait that long.
Expect any official announcement to come between March and May 2008. But again, if we hear nothing from Begich by the end of the year, we can probably assume he's running.