McCain likely faces uphill battle in Alaska

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2008

If Sen. John McCain cannot win over Alaska Republicans who voted overwhelmingly against him as a presidential nominee on Super Tuesday, it could give Democrats the best chance they've had in decades to win Alaska's three electoral votes in November.

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

"I think Alaska is going to go Democratic," said Patti Higgins, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.

Prominent Juneau Republican Paulette Simpson said there was no way, regardless of the nominee, that Alaska would not go Republican.

"Never," she said. "That's an impossibility - Alaska is a solidly Republican state."

McCain became the presumptive Republican nominee this week, after a big Super Tuesday victory nationwide and top challenger Mitt Romney's decision to suspend his campaign.

That leaves Juneau Romney supporter Dorothy Wilson with no one to support in November.

"I've voted my whole life, and I may not vote this time," said Wilson, of Juneau, after Romney's announcement.

Wilson was among many Alaska Republicans who said they opposed McCain, not just supported a different candidate.

McCain has clashed with Alaska's congressional delegation on support for the state in the past and has opposed opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development.

That may have contributed to McCain's dismal showing in Alaska, where he placed fourth in a four-way race, behind Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

Party leaders now have to win over those wavering Republicans, and wondering whether they'll be able to convince them to support the party nominee in the fall.

"Everybody across the country is asking this question today, and I don't have an answer to it," said Ben Brown, a Republican party leader in Juneau.

Gov. Sarah Palin, the state's most prominent Republican, has not yet decided who to publicly support, said Sharon Leighow, spokeswoman for the governor.

"Before she's willing to endorse, she's still hoping to talk with Sen. McCain," Leighow said.

She already has spoken with Romney and Huckabee, Leighow said.

Simpson has identified support for the state's position on ANWR as a key issue for her, but said she'll support whoever the Republican candidate is, even if it is McCain.

"If he comes out of the convention (as the nominee) I'll support him," she said.

For Brown, supporting McCain is easy.

"I voted for join McCain on Tuesday, so it's not an issue I face," he said. "John McCain is a really great person."

Higgins, ironically, made an argument about ANWR that may work in McCain's favor in Alaska.

"The Bush administration had a supermajority and it still couldn't open ANWR," she said. "I don't think it makes a bit of difference" who the president is when it comes to opening ANWR.

Romney supporter Wilson also indicated that despite her initial opposition to McCain, she might vote for him yet.

"I'm not comfortable with John McCain, but I'm more comfortable with him than I am with Hillary or Obama," she said.

Wilson said she disagreed with McCain's stands on illegal immigration and taxes, but she disagreed with some of Romney's stands as well and voted for him anyway as the best candidate running.

"I'm really afraid that the Republican may not be able to win," she said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.





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