Alaska's Obama supporters reach out to swing states

As Palin cements GOP support in state, Dems extend efforts Outside

Posted: Monday, October 20, 2008

Gov. Sarah Palin has cemented Republican presidential candidate John McCain's chances of picking up Alaska's three electoral votes, state polls show, backing up the conventional wisdom that vice-presidential candidates typically carry their home states for their campaigns.

David J. Sheakley / Juneau Empire
David J. Sheakley / Juneau Empire

Democratic rival Barack Obama's campaign bucked conventional political wisdom earlier this year when it put resources into turning Alaska blue. The state hasn't gone for a Democratic nominee since 1964 and typically has received little attention for national candidates of either party.

But while the pick of the popular Palin may have dealt a fatal blow to Obama's chances to win Alaska, his campaign hasn't thrown in the towel.

"We are pushing for every single vote we can," said Nathan Osburn, a spokesman for the state campaign.

A poll taken by Anchorage pollster Ivan Moore the month prior to the Palin pick had McCain only up by two percentage points. His latest poll, taken two weeks ago, had voters supporting McCain 55 to Obama's 38 -- a 17 percent different.

Moore has a new poll coming out this week, his first taken since a legislative investigator found that Palin had abused her power and broke state ethics laws.

He said he thinks Palin's popularity will drop somewhat in the polls, and that as Election Day draws closer the race will tighten.

Still, he said, "it's a pretty sure thing," that McCain will lock up Alaska's electoral votes.

"I think it's highly likely," Moore said.

Osburn said the Obama campaign isn't concerned with polls. But it is clear the political reality in this state has recalibrated the campaign's efforts.

Osburn declined to comment on how many paid staffers were in Alaska compared to before the announcement that Palin was the Republican vice presidential candidate. But one state spokesman has left and Juneau's paid campaign staff has gone from three to one.

But Palin's ascendance to the national stage provided an opportunity for Obama's Alaskan supporters to reach out to people in the lower 48 states who are interested in an insider's opinion of the governor.

Volunteers have been calling or sending postcards to undecided voters in swing states. So far, about 75,000 post cards have been sent from Alaska, including about 6,000 to 7,000 from Juneau, according to Osburn.

"It shows that not everyone in Alaska is going to vote for McCain-Palin," said Juneau volunteer Nick Lyons, who is retired.

Lyons said the dim chance of an Obama victory in Alaska hasn't diminished his enthusiasm for volunteering and showing up at rallies.

"I'm very excited about Barack Obama's candidacy so we're doing whatever we can to promote it," he said.

Lyons was one of more than 100 supporters who turned out on a cold and rainy afternoon for an Obama rally this weekend at Twin Lakes.

Democratic State Rep. Beth Kerttula spoke at the rally, praising Obama's view on senior issues. Afterwards in an interview, she said she, too, had been sending postcards and e-mails to undecided voters and acquaintances in the lower 48, who she said are eager to hear an Alaskan's opinion on Palin.

"They want to understand her, they want to know what she's like and is she qualified and is she ready," said Kerttula, who is the House minority leader. "I just say, I know her, she's not ready, and please vote for Barack Obama."

Anchorage pollster David Dittman said he also doesn't think Obama has a chance of winning Alaska but he said he agreed with the campaign's strategy of staying in the state.

"I don't think (Alaska) is in play, but I think it's a smart thing to campaign like it is," he said.

Dittman said he didn't agree with the McCain campaign's recent decision to withdraw publicly its campaign from Michigan.

He said it sends the wrong message to other states and Palin showed the right political instinct when she spoke out against the move.

Juneau Republican party Chairman Ben Brown said he didn't know of any planned rallies around town for the McCain-Palin campaign, and said that most of his party's volunteers were focused on helping Cathy Muñoz win a state house seat.

He said the next time Palin comes to Juneau, he will help organize a big event to welcome her back.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or

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