Palin Still Touting Opposition To Bridge To Nowhere

According to TPM, Sarah Palin is refusing to blink on her bridge to nowhere lie.

Here's Palin at a campaign stop in Ohio today:

"You're gonna hear a lot about the abusive practice of earmarks in Congress from our good senator here. We championed in Alaska reform of the old earmark process. I told Congress, `Thanks but no thanks' for that Bridge To Nowhere up in Alaska. If our state wanted a bridge, we were gonna build it ourselves."

The McCain/Palin team is clearly banking on the media blinking first and just giving up on pointing out that her claim to have opposed the earmark is a lie. Team Obama responds with mockery:

"On the same day that dozens of news organizations have exposed Governor Palin's phony Bridge to Nowhere claim as a 'naked lie,' she and John McCain continue to repeat the claim in their stump speeches. Maybe tomorrow she'll tell us she sold it on eBay."

Hilariously, Ted Stevens has come to Palin's defense. I guess in the Bush/McCain/Palin upside down world, getting vouched for by an indicted criminal is a good thing?

"I don't remember her ever campaigning for it. As a matter of fact, she was very critical of it at the time. And she took the money and did not use it for the bridge, so you're wrong, as far as I'm concerned," Stevens said today. [...]

"She was never really behind this," Stevens said today, reminding reporters of his impassioned defense of the project in 2005: "I defended it in the Senate. She did not support that. She did not support that."

Yeah, well, all facts to the contrary there, Uncle Ted. Not that Republicans run on facts or require them to inform their claims or judgments or anything, but, just sayin'.

But really, is it any wonder that Stevens would come to Palin's defense? She is singlehandedly keeping him alive in his re-election bid for Senate. For some reason, since her announcement to the presidential ticket, Alaskans seem to be giving Uncle Ted another look.

Meanwhile, an independent poll by Ivan Moore Research for state media outlets showed Stevens trailing Begich by about 3 points. Begich lead Stevens, 49 percent to 46 percent, with 3 percent undecided. The poll surveyed 500 likely voters Aug. 30-Sept. 2 and had a margin of error of 4.4 points.

In an Aug. 9-12 Ivan Moore poll with the same sample size, Begich led Stevens, 56 percent to 39 percent, with 3 percent undecided.

This story hasn't been written yet, of course. I agree with The Anchorage Daily News, who suggests that Charlie Gibson ask Sarah Palin the following questions:

* You present yourself as a Republican maverick who took on your own party's corrupt political establishment. In November's election, your party is running an indicted U.S. Senator, Ted Stevens, who is awaiting trial on charges he accepted more than $250,000 of unreported gifts from the state's most powerful lobbyist. Will you vote for his opponent? Will you urge Alaskans to help you change Washington and vote him out of office? If not, why not?

* Sen. Ted Stevens' trial is still pending; he has declined to say whether he would accept a pardon from President Bush before he leaves office Jan. Do Alaska voters deserve an answer to that question before they cast their vote for or against Stevens in November? What is your position on a president pardoning a public official before a jury has ruled on guilt or innocence?

Sure, it's not terribly likely that Gibson will go there but she can't avoid the Stevens question forever. Stevens represents the very corruption and good ole boy network that she claims to have taken on.

So, in the meantime, there is a real reformer running in Alaska and what better way to fight back against Stevens AND Palin than to give to Stevens' opponent, MyDD Road To 60 Democratic challenger Mark Begich. Let's get Mark up to 60 donors at our ActBlue page by the end of today. I just threw in $25. Who's with me?

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AK-Sen, AK-AL: Primary Recap

Tuesday was primary day in Alaska and, well, there was a little event going on that diverted our attention, so I wanted to give an update of Tuesday's results.

  • On the House side, Alaska House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz easily dispatched Diane Benson in the Democratic primary. Whom he will challenge in November, however, is still uncertain and won't be decided for a few weeks.

    In the primary for the state's lone House seat, [GOP incumbent Don] Young led Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell by 152 votes, or 0.16 percent, with 99 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday. [...]

    "We're not going to finish counting absentee and [provisional] ballots until Sept. 5," said Gail Fenumiai, director of the state Division of Elections. "We have thousands of absentee ballots to be counted."

    Once the counting is finished, she said, a state board will spend seven to 10 days reviewing the results, a step that is part of every contest, regardless of the margin. The results will be officially certified by Sept. 16 or 17. Only then can the loser request a full recount, which would take at least a few days to complete.

    Considering the recent polling, we should hope that Swing State Project is right when they project the absentee ballots to expand Young's lead but interestingly, they're also reporting that Young has refused to rule out running as an independent if he loses.

  • On the Senate side, Road to 60 candidate Mark Begich officially became the Democratic nominee for the Senate from Alaska and indicted incumbent Ted Stevens became -- for now -- the Republican nominee having won 63% of the vote among a 7 candidate field.

    Considering Begich is up 18% in the Pollster trend estimate, it's possible that Stevens will be pressured out of the race, which would mean the Alaska Republican Party would get to choose a replacement candidate, so it's important to continue to support Mark Begich over at our Road To 60 ActBlue page.

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AK-Sen: Post-Indictment, Begich Up By Double Digits

Alaskans are no strangers to corruption in their politicians, so it perhaps should come as no surprise that even after an ongoing investigation led the FBI to raid his home last year that Sen. Stevens continued to be seen as a viable candidate for re-election and indeed even refused to drop out of the race. Hell, even after his indictment earlier this week, Rasmussen Reports finds that:

...50% still regard Stevens favorably and don't want him to resign. Two-thirds (66%) view him as at least as ethical as most politicians.

Amazing. But what's different about 2008 and what Stevens likely didn't count on is that Mark Begich, popular Anchorage Mayor and Road To 60 candidate running against Stevens this cycle, has established himself as a viable candidate in his own right. As he told us in Austin, he hasn't been running on Stevens' corruption -- everyone else has been talking about it so why should he -- so Begich has focused on establishing his own bona fides, and it's clearly paid off. Again from Rasmussen, the post-indictment head-to-head match-up between Begich and Stevens shows that Alaskans are jumping from the Stevens sinking ship.

Candidate7/307/176/16
Begich505044
Stevens374146

In other words, if Stevens is on the ballot in November, he's toast. But will he be? At the very least, these poll numbers mean Stevens is likely to receive a stern phone call from John Ensign (if he hasn't already) urging him to drop out, but what's odd is that the GOP's best bet is for Stevens to win the August 26th 6-way primary but then to drop out after that to allow the Alaska GOP to nominate a new candidate. Problem is, their best bet, Governor Sarah Palin, is under a cloud of corruption herself. But why would Stevens drop out now? He's continued to maintain his innocence. Today, in fact, Stevens pled not guilty and his lawyer even requested an expedited trial date so he could "clear his name" prior to the election. Yes, you do that, Senator.

Man, if it weren't so sad, it'd be funny. Ah, who am I kidding, it's hilarious.

Update [2008-7-31 15:4:8 by Todd Beeton]:This just in: U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan just set a tentative trial date of Sept. 24.

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Consequences of Indictment

In the wake of his indictment, Sen. Ted Stevens has declared his innocence:

I have proudly served this nation and Alaska for over 50 years. My public service began when I served in World War II. It saddens me to learn that these charges have been brought against me. I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. Senator. In accordance with Senate Republican Conference rules, I have temporarily relinquished my vice-chairmanship and ranking positions until I am absolved of these charges. The impact of these charges on my family disturbs me greatly. I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.

Sounds like he won't be dropping out of the race any time soon -- great news for Mark Begich -- but he did have to resign his ranking member status on two committees in the wake of the indictment. Who knew the GOP was actually enforcing ethics rules?

Consistent with GOP bylaws that require Members who are under felony indictment to relinquish their ranking posts on committees, Stevens, the longest-serving Republican Senator, has officially stepped down as ranking member of both the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

In addition, Democratic senate challengers are starting to demand that the GOP incumbent senators they're running against return donations from Ted Stevens. Road To 60 challenger Kay Hagan released a statement insisting that Elizabeth Dole return or donate to charity $21,000 she personally received from Stevens between 2001 and 2007. Emphasis below mine:

"First there was Jack Abramoff, and now Ted Stevens is this cycle's scandal-prone Washington insider -- it's a habit they just can't help themselves break. This is business as usual for Washington career politicians like Ted Stevens, and indicative of exactly why people in North Carolina and elsewhere across the country are so disgusted with the people they elect to represent them," said Colleen Flanagan, Hagan Campaign Communications Director. "Elizabeth Dole should immediately return, or donate to charity, the $21,000 she received from Ted Stevens - we recommend sending the money to help low-income families afford the skyrocketing gas prices Dole has failed to address for the past six years. Ted Stevens and Elizabeth Dole have been in Washington for 40 years, and quite frankly, both have shown the proclivity to put special interests and lobbyists ahead of the folks who elected them. People in Alaska, North Carolina and across the country deserve leadership that is beholden to the people who elected them, not the special interests and lobbyists in Washington."

Surely, more will follow. Marc Ambinder reminds us that Norm Coleman is particularly vulnerable on the issue of having taken Alaskan money.

It means that any senator who got VECO money -- Norm Coleman? -- will be called to account.

What does this mean for Democrats' senate chances? At the very least the narrative is shifting, as Roger Simon put it on Hardball moments ago:

If the magic number for Democrats is getting to 60 in the senate, they thought it wasn't possible, it may not be impossible anymore.

Help out our Road to 60 challengers over at our Road to 60 ActBlue page.

Update [2008-7-29 17:40:52 by Todd Beeton]:That was fast. Elizabeth Dole has just dumped $10k of Stevens money. From TPM:

Campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley just told Election Central that the campaign has written a $10,000 check -- the amount Dole has received this cycle from Stevens' leadership PAC -- to the Society of St. Andrew.

Stevens' PAC has donated to every incumbent GOP Senator seeking re-election this year. That's one down. Will others follow?

Update [2008-7-29 18:4:48 by Josh Orton]: A couple more bits of Stevens indictment-related fallout:

  • List of his PAC's expenditures this year here. Paging Pat Roberts, Gordon Smith...

  • CQ changes Stevens' race rating from "leans Republican" to "leans Democrat."

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AK-Sen: Road To 60 Candidate Mark Begich Up 9

Big news from Rasmussen Reports today. A new poll of the Alaska senate race (500 LVs, July 17, MOE +/- 4.5%) has Mark Begich up 9% (8% with leaners) over Ted Stevens (June, May and April numbers in parentheses.)

Mark Begich 50 (44, 47, 45)
Ted Stevens 41 (46, 45, 46)

As you can see, this is the first time Rasmussen has Begich with a lead larger than 2% and the first time he has been at the 50% mark.

Rasmussen breaks down the reason for Begich's lead:

One in five Alaskan Republicans (20%) now throw their support behind Begich. The challenger earns 84% support from Democrats in Alaska, while Stevens is backed by 72% of his own party. Among unaffiliated voters, Begich leads by a two-to-one margin. The candidates are relatively even among men but Begich has a twenty-two point advantage among women.

I'm not surprised to see Begich attracting such strong support from non-Democrats. I was able to meet him in Austin and I left our meeting feeling impressed and extremely confident about this race, largely because of Begich's obvious independent streak and his understanding of what it takes for a Democrat to win in Alaska. Begich is Mayor of Anchorage, which includes 43% of the state's population and 70% of the state's media. Traditionally, Democrats do not win in Anchorage, yet not only did Begich win an unlikely mayoral victory in 2003 but he won an overwhelming re-election in 2006. Anchorage is also a travel hub for Alaskans who don't live there and Begich said he is consistently approached by residents from all over the state and all over the partisan spectrum who tell him how impressed they've been with what he's done in the city.

Despite his "what you see is what you get" sort of everyman quality, Begich is really savvy about messaging and seems to me to be single-handedly branding himself AND the Democratic Party as synonymous with competence and progress, which is a perfect combination running against a man who has been in the senate for 28 years and whose home has been raided by the FBI. There was a lot of talk in Austin about downticket races helping Obama throughout the country in November just as much as Obama will help them and I think the Alaska senate race is a perfect example of that.

So, please help Mark Begich build on his momentum with a donation at our Road To 60 Act Blue page.

Also, you can watch a TPM interview with Begich below:

And here's one of Mark Begich's ads that's been running for the last two weeks.

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