Young Sees No Boost From Palin

Posted September 23, 2008 at 6:55pm

Republican Congressional candidates everywhere are excited about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R) addition to the national ticket.

Everywhere except, maybe, in Alaska.

While Palin’s position on the ticket appears to have been a boost for indicted Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), whose trial started this week, longtime Rep. Don Young’s (R) numbers appear to be stagnant or declining since his home-state governor went national. Two polls have shown Young’s position in the polls sliding since Palin was put on the national ticket and since he was declared the narrow winner of the GOP primary against her deputy, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell (R).

Young won the Aug. 26 primary by a few hundred votes and will face former state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz (D) this November. The longtime Congressman has publicly feuded with Palin, who was elected in 2006 on a vow to rid the state of corrupt politics.

Young campaign spokesman Mike Anderson expressed optimism about the race, despite the divisive primary. He said recent polls are not accurate, and it’s too early to get a real sense of the race.

“Realistically, there’s work to be done,” Anderson said. “But realistically also, I know right now in Alaska there is such a Republican fever, a Palin fever. … What we’re seeing is people who were very strong Parnell allies … coming up and saying we’re going to support Young.”

Anderson also said the campaign was trying to arrange a meeting between Palin and Young. He said Young has asked for Parnell’s support and they are expected to meet, though the lieutenant governor has not endorsed the Congressman yet.

Palin’s press staff at the McCain campaign did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on the Alaska House race. However, in an Aug. 14 interview in her Anchorage office — before she was tapped as McCain’s running mate — Palin told Roll Call she did not foresee endorsing Young if her chosen candidate, Parnell, lost the GOP primary.

“I don’t think Don Young wants my endorsement,” Palin said at the time. “I believe that … as he expressed his dislike for our administration, I can’t imagine he would seek the endorsement, so no need to offer it up without it being accepted.”

In an interview in his Anchorage office that same week, Young refused to discuss Palin.

“I won’t talk about the current governor,” Young said. “I’ve been under a lot of governors, and I just won’t talk about this one.”

So far, public polls have given Berkowitz a double-digit lead. Most recently, a Research 2000 poll showed Berkowitz leading Young 53 percent to 39 percent among 600 likely voters interviewed Sept. 15-17.

That was a bigger margin for Berkowitz than a Research 2000 poll showed in mid-July, when the Democrat led Young 51 percent to 40 percent. The polls, paid for by the liberal Web site Daily Kos, each had margins of error of 4 points.

What’s more, another poll by Ivan Moore Research also showed Young’s numbers tick downward since the primary and the Palin pick.

Among 500 likely voters interviewed for that poll Aug. 30-Sept. 2, Young trailed Berkowitz, 54 percent to 37 percent. A similar poll taken three weeks earlier showed Young trailing Berkowitz by a 10-point margin.

The Berkowitz campaign sees Young’s downward tick in the polls as a result of a public tiff between the Congressman and Palin, which was played out publicly in the close GOP primary. Palin outwardly supported Parnell from the start of the campaign and appeared in his campaign advertisements.

The insider feud has even prompted Democrats to float the idea that Palin could endorse Berkowitz over Young. While it would be a risky move politically, analysts see a Berkowitz endorsement as a public way for Palin to fully divorce herself from the Republican establishment in her state.

Berkowitz spokesman David Shurtleff said that while a Palin endorsement would be unexpected, the campaign welcomes the support of any Alaskan. And in the meantime, he pointed out that Palin’s silence is “worth so, so much.”

“Everyone up there is waiting to see what she’s going to say, because it would be an incredible reversal for her to come up and say she’s going to endorse Don Young or Ted Stevens,” Shurtleff said. “Her popularity is so high because she ran on a platform to get rid of people like that.”

Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich chalked up Young’s standing in the polls to the close primary — Young was not officially deemed the winner until Sept. 17.

“Basically, it was too close to call,” Ruedrich said. “And there was a question of were the loyal-to-Parnell voters still hoping he was going to succeed [as the final ballots were slowly counted]? Or were they moving over to support Congressman Young?”

Meanwhile, excitement in the state about having Palin on the national ticket will only help Young, according to Ruedrich, who also has a tenuous history with Palin from when she outed him for ethical problems when he headed a state agency. The enthusiasm, he added, has helped heal the divide in the GOP between Young and Palin.

“Eighty-percent popularity has something to do with that,” said Ruedrich, referring to Palin’s sky-high approval ratings in the state.