Since being elected in 2008, Sen. Mark Begich has often bumped heads with his Democratic Senate colleagues. He did so over gun control, for one. He’s repeatedly voted against environmental issues that Democrats have pushed for.
But now, he’s holding fast and true with his fellow Democrats who are blaming Republicans for shutting the federal government down over the funding of the Affordable Care Act, an act, it should be noted, that Congress passed, has been litigated up to the Supreme court, and has gone through an election cycle.
It’s also something that Alaskans are against, by and large, for now at least.
So why is Begich, who’s up for a tough reelection in 2014 sticking with the Dems on this? Principle no doubt plays into it. He likely truly believes that Republican entrenchment on this is wrong for the country. But Begich is nothing if not a political animal. He has one of the best political noses in the state, and the political winds he’s smelling are telling him that this one is a winner.
I couldn’t find anybody who’s polled on the shutdown in Alaska, but feelings here aren’t likely radically different than feelings across the country: no matter how much people object to the health care law, they have consistently told pollsters that they are not in favor of tying government operations to defunding the law. Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake probably put it best when he said, “Obamacare is not popular, but we’ve managed to find the one thing that’s less popular than Obamacare.”
Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who’s running for Begich’s seat, believes otherwise, apparently. He has said that if he were elected, he would “stand” with those Republican senators most entrenched, senators that even Republican stalwarts like John McCain and Richard Burr, to name just a few, believe have gone too far.
He’s since walked some of that back, maybe, although it’s been hard figure out exactly where he stands. Indeed, Roll Call writer Stu Rothenberg, who interviewed four Republican Senate candidates about the shutdown, said that among all of them, Mead was the most “difficult to pin down.”
Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, who is also running, is not difficult to pin down. He’d fight to end the health care law for as long as they’d have him in the Senate.
Former Department of Natural Resources Commissioner, Dan Sullivan, who has for weeks dithered about running, may be the smartest of the three. He’s not answering questions about the mess. He doesn’t have to. For now, he’s a private citizen dithering away like the rest of us. And by the time he might have to, the worst will likely be over, and he’ll get to play statesman.
Begich is holding a telephonic town hall on the government shutdown on Wednesday evening. Expect strong words from him about entrenched Republicans. It’s a winner and he knows it.
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