Below is the response from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich’s campaign to the American Crossroads ad released earlier this week, accusing Begich of not taking enough action on veterans’ healthcare. It’s a powerful response, as is the radio spot that goes along with it. Although there are problems, the veterans system here has largely avoided being plagued with the problems that the facilities are plagued with in the Lower 48. That’s in large part due to the work of Begich, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who fought to allow some vets in rural Alaska to go to local clinics.
A reliable source says that Put Alaska First, the pro-Mark Begich super-PAC, is spending more than $4 million dollars, and as much as $4.6 million, on television ads throughout the state for spots in the last eight weeks of the campaign. If true, it will be the single biggest media buy in Alaska history.
Anchorage based Jim Lottsfeldt, who runs the PAC, declined to comment on the amount. He did say however, that “We’re in it to win it.”
If that number turns out to be correct, the total super-PAC spend will be upwards of $7 million so far, and it’s only May. The front-runner in the Republican race, Dan Sullivan, has raised more than Begich in the last two quarters. But none of the groups directly supporting him so far have spent nearly that amount.
Sullivan’s spokesperson, Mike Anderson, responded to news with the following statement:
“Assuming that Harry Reid and his liberal allies in Washington are going to spend over $4 million of outside money to support Mark Begich’s campaign it explains why Senator Begich has voted with President Obama 97 percent of the time. It also begs the question for Alaskans: what will Mark Begich owe them for this DC political bailout?”
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Clarification: The original story said that Sullivan has out-raised Begich. That’s only true for the two fundraising quarters that Sullivan has been in the race.
Redemption makes for a powerful story. So does being an underdog who claims to speak truth to power. Of the three candidates running to be the Republican nominee in the U.S. Senate race–Joe Miller, Mead Treadwell and Dan Sullivan–only Miller can claim both. Both Treadwell and Sullivan have much going for them, but they don’t have the power of those two stories.
This wasn’t lost on the fired up crowd of as many as 200 on Monday night at the Wasilla Lake Resort where they gathered for Miller’s official campaign kickoff. As most know, Miller ran in 2010, won the primary, and then suffered a devastating loss to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in bid. It was a brutal campaign, and Miller’s reputation took a beating.
But some things are different this time. Miller’s official campaign kickoff in 2010 was in the town square in Anchorage. About 12 people showed, said Mark Fish, who has been one of Miller’s main volunteers from the beginning. “I think I begged six of my libertarian friends to come,” Fish said.
And Miller appears to be softer and more relaxed this time around. On the stage on Monday, he was even able to poke fun of the fact that in 2010, a member of his “security” detail handcuffed Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger at a campaign event. Referring to his young children who were sitting next to him who are taking martial arts, Miller said that this time “we decided to have in-house security.”
It was probably the loudest laugh line of the night from a crowd that wasn’t shy about laughing, as well as yelling out an occasional “Amen,” or “Say it like it is Joe.”
The event lasted more than 2 hours, and featured national radio talk show host Lars Larson. Tim Macy, vice chairman of the Gun Owners of America, flew up that morning from California for the event. Adele Morgan and Paul Wainamo sang songs about God and country. Speeches about liberty, guns and God were made. It was a classic Wasilla tea party, with some beer on tap.
Before Miller spoke, they showed the above three minute video about Miller and his life. It’s easy to forget that Miller actually has an impressive resume. He went to West Point and has a law degree from Yale. He was awarded the Bronze Star in Desert Storm. He has a masters in economics from UAF. And he was raised by poor parents in Kansas. He has eight kids, and is now a grandfather. And he now will have run twice for U.S. Senate and has developed a large following.
Another thing that’s changed since 2010: Miller has developed a stump speech that is actually digestible. He still talks with passion about repealing ObamaCare, abolishing the IRS, and federal overreach. But he doesn’t go on and on. And on Monday, he peppered his speech with the personal. He told a story about being a little boy with a disfigured lip from a fall. He alluded to being bullied because of it. He talked about working for his father’s bookstore and mowing lawns to get enough money to pay for an operation to fix it. He raised the money, took the bus to Wichita, and got his lip fixed.
He was only in 7th grade.
The money is going to be tight for Miller. Although all told he has about $300,000 cash on hand, he only raised $101,000 last quarter. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has less cash on hand, but he has name recognition and long history in the state. The big money is on former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan, who raised $1.4 million last quarter alone and has about $2 million on hand.
But then again, Miller won the last primary with only $300,000 against Murkowski’s huge war chest.
Miller didn’t mention Sullivan in his speech, but it’s clear that he’s going to attack him as the establishment candidate who is supported by those partaking in “generational theft,” and by the “same forces” that fought him so hard in the last election.
I asked him what’s different since the last election and why he thinks he can win now when he didn’t then.
He pointed to the crowd. “Look at this,” he said. “This is different.”
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