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That’s why Republican insiders will look closely at Sullivan’s first fundraising report to the Federal Election Commission since entering the race this fall — due on Jan. 31. There is particular interest in both how big of a number he posts and which donors turn up.
Should Sullivan’s first three months of fundraising turn out as positively as his campaign hopes, it will be the first-time candidate’s best opportunity at this early point to distinguish himself.
“The best way to see momentum is the fundraising effort,” Sullivan spokesman Mike Anderson said. “We’re optimistic we’ll be able to reach our goal come the end of this fourth quarter. We’re looking to put a pretty healthy number on the board.”
Perhaps, then, it was just a coincidence that Sullivan formally announced his candidacy on Oct. 15, when third-quarter fundraising reports were due to the FEC and the same day Treadwell reported raising just $196,000.
The Treadwell campaign intends to make the race a choice of record versus rhetoric, though it continues to focus on increasing its fundraising.
“We’re confident in our ability to improve quarter to quarter, and we’re going to have more than enough resources to run the campaign we want to run,” Treadwell spokesman Rick Gorka said. “We’ll see what Dan does.”
As of last week, both candidates now have super PACs in place for uncoordinated support on the airwaves. Begich has one too, and it launched a TV ad on Wednesday to defend him against attacks over Obamacare.
Joe Miller, a tea party favorite and the party’s 2010 Senate nominee, has been largely quiet so far. Miller defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary but blundered his general election campaign, paving the way for the senator to win re-election as a write-in candidate.
In this race, Miller remains a potential spoiler should Treadwell and Sullivan tear each other down. Moran met with Miller earlier this year, though it was largely because the two share Kansas roots.
“My guess is he keeps his head down and will try to make a big charge at the end,” veteran Alaska GOP pollster Marc Hellenthal said. “In a Republican primary, you can’t totally discount him. But like I’ve said before, Begich goes to heaven if he wakes up Wednesday morning and Miller is his opponent.”
Sullivan’s résumé reads straight out of a Republican textbook. He served in the Bush administration under Condoleezza Rice when she was national security adviser and secretary of State. He was appointed in 2009 as Alaska’s attorney general and most recently served as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. His military service with the Marine Corps includes rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel and a deployment to Afghanistan this summer.
However, Republican insiders in the state expect Treadwell to play up the contrast of his own several decades in the state — spent mostly in business, policy and politics — with Sullivan’s time away. Both were born elsewhere and hold degrees from Ivy League schools.
The primary isn’t until Aug. 19, so voters have plenty of time to get to know both candidates. Alaska Republicans expect a hard-fought campaign and close election — one that will set up a solid contrast with Begich come November.