The meteoric rise of Gov. Sarah Palin on the national political stage will pay dividends for Sen. Ted Stevens' reelection campaign, the Republican said Friday.
"She has changed the dynamic of this (presidential race), there is no question about it," Stevens said about Palin's selection as the Republican vice presidential candidate late last month. "Unless there is something unforeseen happens between now and November I think McCain is president because she has done it - she has changed the dynamics of the election."
Palin has put Alaska on the map in everyone's mind and has energized Republicans across the country and around the state, Stevens said.
"It's good for Alaska," he said. "I feel very good about it. Will it help me? Yes."
Stevens is facing what some are calling his toughest reelection yet as he faces Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich while facing seven felony charges for allegedly not disclosing more than a quarter million dollars in gifts from oil executives on Senate finance forms. Stevens pleaded not guilty to the charges and is scheduled to take the case to trial prior to the Nov. 4 general election.
The energy Palin has brought to the Republican presidential ticket should increase voter turnout across Alaska, Stevens said.
"I fully expect you'll see somewhere around 70 percent of Alaska vote this time and the more votes there are the more it helps me," he said.
Julie Hasquet, press secretary for the Begich Campaign, said the campaign agrees that the selection of Palin as the vice presidential candidate will energize voters in Alaska and potentially lead to record numbers at the polls on Nov. 4. However, she said Palin's platform of reform should help bring voters to the Begich camp because of his ethical and independent reputation.
"We would expect that if Sarah is running on an anticorruption platform she will have to distance herself from Sen. Stevens, and it won't necessarily help Stevens in the race," Hasquet said.
Stevens said Palin's selection as the vice presidential nominee has taken away the momentum of the "Obama factor" that was receiving so much attention earlier in the campaign.
"He was new and it was energized and something different, a new voice and he really just surged ahead," Stevens said of Obama. "Well, when Sen. McCain picked Sarah she was new and even more a sparkplug because she energized young women."
"We fully expect this to be a close race," Hasquet said.
Stevens said he enjoyed Palin's quip at the Republican National Convention about lipstick being the only difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull. He was quick to point out his experience as a hockey dad.
"They never talk about the fact that hockey pops drive the car," Stevens joked.
Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.