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Senator Begich Should Drop the Palin Talk

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Senator Begich Should Drop the Palin Talk-cover

Mark Begich’s campaign strategy to date has been simple: object to Frankenfish, take lots of pictures with Alaskans doing Alaska things, and stand back while the Democratic Party and supportive PACs label GOP front runner Dan Sullivan a Koch-loving Outsider. They seem very keen on doing that.

Finally, raise a lot of money. Sen. Begich has been doing a bang up job on that front, reporting a war chest of $2.8 million earlier this month — up a healthy tick from Sullivan’s $2 million on hand.

The campaign to unseat the first-term senator has been a priority for national Republicans, who are likely — but by no means guaranteed — to reclaim control of the senate. For those of us who live here, that translates to an ugly and inescapable barrage of negative advertising. The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity group has dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into ad buys, in blatant attempts to ruin my evening Jeopardy watching, through non-stop, intellectually monosyllabic, and brazenly dishonest political advertising.

Each anti-Begich ad comes rife with things to object to, from a Maryland actress with concerned-face masquerading as an Alaskan, to the repeatedly debunked allegation that Begich supports a carbon tax. Who cares whether or not the message bears a single nugget of truth, so long as it’s well-funded, heavily repeated, and mentions Harry Reid at some point?

Sen. Begich, on the other hand, has cleverly responded with possibly the best one-two punch I’ve ever seen landed, as political advertisements go (easily the best since Scott McAdams donned his tie collection in 2010).

In the first ad, Begich called out the Koch brothers for spending money to influence an election in Alaska at the same time they were shutting down the Flint Hills refinery, and rebutted the negative Americans for Prosperity ads. The 30-second-clip was powerful, using non-Marylander Alaskans to deliver his campaign message for him:

They come into our town, buy our refinery, just running it into the ground, leaving a mess. A lot of Alaskans are losing their jobs and I’m definitely concerned about the drinking water. I don’t go down to tell them what to do. I expect them not to come up to Alaska and tell us what to do.

Begich followed with a second ad entitled “Alaska’s Son.” Voiced by wife Deborah Bonito, the clip returned attention to Sen. Begich, his family ties to Alaska, and his voting record. “I love my husband, but I’m prouder still of him as a father, and what he learned from his own.”

In almost a whisper, Begich concluded: “I’m Mark Begich, and I approve this message.”

Boy howdy, you do.

Debunk, define, reinforce. That’s a winning message. It may not ultimately win him reelection, but it’s the best option.

Fear can also be a winning message, but it generally hints that one has run out of more important things to say to garner attention. Which is why the Begich campaign needs to stop bringing up Sarah Palin.

Since January, several campaign email blasts have gone out to supporters invoking the governor’s name, threatening her return to Alaska politics, and asking for money. The asks aren’t coming from a SuperPAC — they all have come directly from either Sen. Begich or campaign manager Susanne Fleek-Green, signature and all. It goes like this:

The prospect of Palin returning is terrifying, save for one troublesome reality: it’s completely and utterly bogus. Sarah Palin is not running for senate. Just like she didn’t run for president; just like she won’t. She’s amassed over $12 million since running for vice president. Despite reportedly suffering a 75 percent pay cut to remain a Fox News contributor, her paycheck is still estimated to be around $250,000 — a sum noticeably larger than the annual $174,000 for senators — for a position where she doesn’t have to deal with constituent services, committee-chairing, or making any sense when she speaks. Talk about playing to your strengths.

Sarah Palin doesn’t do Alaska politics anymore. If Governor Sean Parnell’s move to turn her ACES legacy into a budget deficit didn’t muster up so much as her standard fare Facebook spittle, she’s not likely to be considering a return to public office. She’s spent much more time objecting to Al Franken’s reelection bid than anything even tangentially having to do with Alaska.

If the impossible did happen, and she tossed her hat in the ring, she’d split the tea kettle with Joe Miller and Sullivan would still get the nod.

Sen. Begich should stick to the refreshingly positive campaign he’s been running. Keep touring the state, taking selfies with constituents, wearing Carhartts, and talking about how awesome Alaska salmon is. Raise money by sticking to your guns (the more literally interpreted, the better); hope Mead Treadwell continues to uninspire, Ohioans keep donating to Sullivan, and new headlines pop up containing the words “Joe Miller” and “handcuffs.”

And if the click bait that is Sarah Palin must come up, for the love of Ray Jay, let a SuperPAC do it.