Republican strategist eyes Alaska

Texas Republican strategist Chris Turner, with Stampede Consulting, has been in and out of town now for a few months. This time, however, he’s been in Alaska for nearly a week. With his wife and 11-year-old son, he’s here, ostensibly, for a vacation. And he has been on the usual vacation tour circuit: spotting bears in Denali, whales in Seward, etc, etc. . .

But any Republican strategist worth his spit would see a vacation in Alaska right now as more than just an opportunity to spot wildlife, as evidenced by the fact that he showed up at Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Anchorage fundraiser on Tuesday evening wearing a suit.

(The event was officially off the record, but I can report that Boehner lived up to his red wine drinking, cigarette smoking, weeping reputation. He actually wept during a speech.)

The U.S. Senate race is looming. The balance of power in the chamber may very well rest on how Alaskans vote. The technologically savvy, incredibly effective army of Obama Democrats will be setting up in force in the next year to ensure Sen. Mark Begich’s reelection. And the Republicans are not going to give up without a vicious fight.

“Alaska will be ground zero,” Turner said. Big money is coming to the state in a big way on both sides of the aisle. In addition to the Senate race, if the oil tax repeal makes it on the ballot, oil money will gush. If marijuana makes it, pot money will cloud the airwaves. “Alaskans have no idea what’s coming at them,” Turner said.

Then, depending on how the never-ending process known as redistricting is complete, there’s all those state candidates.

Turner doesn’t know who, or if, he’ll be working for. So far, former candidate Joe Miller and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell have announced they’ll take on Begich, DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan is said to have been considering a run, but has recently flat out denied this.

What Turner does know, he said over lunch on Tuesday afternoon, is that whoever it is, he or she needs to have as powerful a ground game as the Democrats have, a ground game that will both challenge Begich on pressing the flesh and on the technological front.

The Dems have gained the ground-game advantage largely because of Obama’s team, which won in 2008 by organizing neighbor-to-neighbor contact, along with the most advanced get out the vote computer applications. That effort has continued to evolve and was deployed to breathtaking efficiency in 2012.

Begich will have all those tools at his disposal, tools that the Republicans have been dismal at deploying.

Team Romney was supposed to change that. His team promised that they had “the Republican Party’s newest, unprecedented and most technologically advanced plan to win the 2012 presidential election.”

That plan, dubbed “Project Orca,” turned into a nightmare. Everything about the system failed. Hundreds of thousands of campaign volunteers were foot-stomping frustrated, and that was before the system crashed on Election Day, leaving senior staff in Boston to tally votes on a calculator.

Turner, who worked on other presidential campaigns but sat out Romney’s, claims that he’s got the ground game answer. He’s coy about the specifics, and so is his decidedly unsophisticated website. But out of 100 races that he was involved with in the last election cycle, he claims to have won 92. (It should be noted that not all of the candidates were the most savory.)

If there’s a good candidate, Turner thinks he can help win the Senate seat for the Republicans.

That’s a big if, however. The only declared or potential candidate so far who has shown even a hint of the kind of tenacity that Begich has is, of all people, Joe Miller. And if Miller wins the Republican primary, Republicans across the land will cry big Boehner tears.

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