Ensign Pledges NRSC Aid if Stevens Is Acquitted

Posted October 21, 2008 at 12:04pm

At least one high-level Republican thinks the verdict in the ongoing corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) will also predict the outcome of Stevens’ tough re-election battle.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) said Tuesday that when it comes to keeping the Alaska Senate seat in GOP hands, it’s all about whether Stevens is declared innocent or proven guilty in the trial that is expected to go to the jury Tuesday.

“The polling I’ve seen, it’s all about what happens in the trial,” Ensign said. “I think that Ted Stevens, if his trial comes to a conclusion, and as he believes, that he is found innocent, I think that he will win that election up there. If it goes the other way, obviously it really won’t matter what happens in the election.”

Ensign made his prediction at the National Press Club Tuesday morning at a public jousting with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.).

Stevens is facing Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, one of the best Democratic recruits of the cycle. Ensign said that based on its internal polling, the NRSC believes that Stevens cannot win re-election if there is a guilty verdict.

“And if that can happen, if the decision can come down before the election, we’ve got polling out there and when you ask the kind of questions, he comes out on top,” Ensign said. “It’s just a question of whether it comes down before the election. I hope that it does.”

In a follow-up interview, Ensign said that if Stevens is proven innocent early enough, the NRSC would send resources to Alaska to aid his re-election.

“If they can do it early enough, we would absolutely do it,” Ensign said.

Begich led Stevens by double digits in most polls from early on in the cycle, before the Justice Department indicted Stevens in July on seven counts of lying on his Senate financial disclosure forms. More recently, Begich’s lead in most public polls has been by a couple of points and well within the margin of error.