About a month ago I polled Alaska, and the numbers in the Senate race were shocking:
Stevens (R) 41
Begich (D) 47
The poll got picked up in the local media, and Stevens' pollster was asked about it. In such cases, it's normal for campaign operatives to spin away such terrible results. In this case, the obvious play would've been to claim the poll was a biased survey conducted for the "far-left" website, or something like that. It doesn't have to be true, and Daily Kos polling is conducted by the non-partisan media polling firm Research 2000, but it would've been the obvious spin. Instead, Stevens' pollsters chose candor. From a news story on the poll:
Local pollsters are not surprised by the numbers. Dave Dittman, who's firm Dittman Research is polling for Stevens, said the publicity on corruption investigations is hurting the Republicans.
"It's interesting and it's early but I wasn't shocked," Dittman said. "Both Congressman Young and Sen. Stevens have been under attack (or) at least the subject of a lot of negative information and news stories and things for almost two years. I would think it's got to have an effect."
I thought at the time that the pollster would get a good tongue-lashing, and that would be the end of it. But today, in a piece in the Anchorage Daily News, Dittman once again undermined his client's campaign with an unwelcome (to Republicans) dose of the truth:
"He's more vulnerable than he has been before," conceded Anchorage pollster and political consultant Dave Dittman, who is working for the Stevens campaign.
As for Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich -- the Democrats' strongest potential candidate in the race, he's still waiting until the spring to announce. As I argued last year, if Begich was not going to run, he would've announced that decision by the end of the year to give other credible candidates a chance. He did not do that, so he's likely in. And if nothing else, he's sure sounding cocky about Novemenber:
Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich predicts both Stevens and Alaska Congressman Don Young will be gone after 2008.
"The delegation for the first time in decades will have serious competition for those seats," said Begich, 45, who is contemplating a run as a Democrat against the 84-year-old Stevens. "And I do believe those seats will change over."
I like it, and I look forward to seeing Republicans scramble to hold on to those seats while continuing to fend off FBI investigators.