by Jonathan Singer, Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 06:09:59 AM EDT
At the Netroots Nation conference last week down in Austin, I had the chance to catch up with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democratic Senate candidate in the state of Alaska and a key member of the MyDD Road to 60 Act Blue page.
You should be able to listen to the audio of the interview below in the not too distant future (apparently it's still formatting), but for now please do read the rush transcript of the interview in which Begich lays out a number of the themes of his campaign and presents a strong case as to why members of the MyDD community, and the netroots more broadly, should be supporting his campaign.
Jonathan Singer: In 2004 Tony Knowles was able to get 45, 46 percent of the vote. You're consistently polling ahead, but kind of in the mid- to high-40s. How do you get from the mid- to high-40s to the plurality that takes home the day?
Mark Begich: I think that there's a couple things. First, the dynamics between '04 and now are way different in Alaska, and there's a couple elements, first the campaign dynamics and then as means of candidates there's a different dynamic.
First, the campaign dynamics. In '04 our delegation was in the majority. Senator Stevens was the Appropriations chair. Lisa Murkowski had two years already there. She was a woman candidate, which cut right into Tony's base. The other piece was the in the last two weeks Ted Stevens came out with an ad for Lisa Murkowski and said, "If you abandon us, Alaska will lose out. You can't break the team up. We're there, we're bringing back the bacon." Those were the days when people loved bacon and they also had no problems with the delegation in the sense of some of the issues they're dealing with today.
The other thing is Bush was still popular back then, not like he is today, so it was a very red state. And the other piece was there was a third candidate, independent candidate, that kind of appeared out of nowhere. Actually dressed very similar to Tony Knowles, talked like Tony Knowles. Showed up, spent about $175,000, $200,000 towards the end of the campaign. When the campaign was over he vanished. And he picked up 3 ½, 4 percent of the vote, built it right out of the back, I believe, of Tony Knowles.
This cycle it's different - the campaign, all it's dynamics. The delegation is no longer in the majority on either side. Stevens has lost his powerful position. Earmarks are in trouble all across this country. His ability to bring back stuff is harder. It's four years later. The President is at the lowest ratings ever. The dynamics of the country have switched, too, and Alaska has switched.
And the independent candidate who's in this time is a right to lifer, Buchanan delegate, and loves to brag about it. We always put our thumb up and say, "keep going." So it's a different dynamic than what played last time.
Singer: And in the view of some on the right, Stevens is conservative on life but not 10,000 percent conservative?
Begich: Right, right. And this guy can peel right off his back. And because he comes from an area called Nakiski, which is a very conservative area which Republicans treat as a guarantee - here's you're delivery of the votes, not a lot, but it's a delivery - this guy is from there and he is a proud hard right to right. So he will not take one vote from me where Tony had that problem with that other candidate.
The other thing that's different, Stevens and Don Young are both under a cloud of investigation and other activities. That's all swirling around. Stevens popularity back then was 70 percent positive, 12 percent negative, so he was very popular. Today, I don't know what the latest...
Matt Browner-Hamlin (staffer): His negatives were in the 60s. That's the furthest we've seen it.
Begich: Yeah, they were deep. His reelect number when we did a poll three months ago was 31 percent. He's never been in that position.