Paul Jenkins: GOP can knock Begich out of Senate - if it plays for keeps

Paul Jenkins

Here's a surprise: The percentage of Americans who identify themselves as political independents is at an all-time high. If you believe the Gallup folks, something like 41 percent of the 18,000 or Americans they chatted up last year claimed that political non-affiliation.

The percentage claiming Republican DNA is at an all-time low -- 25 percent last year, the lowest in the past quarter-century.

Gallup says the increasing percentage of Americans who claim to be independents is costing Republicans more than Democrats. All that should be bothersome to the GOP -- and alarming. For the record, 31 percent confessed to being Democrats, a level stagnant for the past four years.

In Alaska, registration numbers for Republicans, Democrats and the undeclared all are dropping. Nonpartisan voters numbers barely are increasing.

Nationally, Republicans have suffered decades of political schizophrenia, unable to fathom who they are and what they stand for. They are none the better for having been hammered into goo by the news media, of late the Democrats' unabashed propaganda arm.

Unfortunately, the GOP wants to be liked. It is afraid it will be accused of being mean, or racist, or uncaring, or guilty of whatever the latest leftist smear might be; gun-shy lest somebody invoke the Koch brothers or other bogeymen to again paint Republicans as evil. Because they forever are discombobulated, Republicans cannot settle on a resonating message and pound it home.

Take, for instance, the latest GOP ad imbroglio involving freshman Sen. Mark Begich. The Republican National Committee boasted it was going to smack the bejeebers out of Begich and other Democrats in an ad blitz for their part in the miserable lie that is Obamacare.

"The ad blast turned out to be more of a sprinkle," the Anchorage Daily News reported. "In Anchorage, a single radio ad aimed at Begich was set to air on a single station -- 650 KENI -- one time on Tuesday, according to a check of the political ad buys at the two major radio conglomerates in Anchorage. The total cost to the Republican National Committee for the Anchorage radio airtime? $30."

It was to air once in Fairbanks, the newspaper said.

Many wondered: Is this a joke, or what? Once in Anchorage, once in Fairbanks? The RNC did not even bother to feature in the ad a recording of Begich parroting Obama at a town hall meeting, saying, "Those who have insurance can keep what they have, keep the docs they have. ..."

After media all over the country reported on the ads, the GOP looked milquetoasty.

That cannot be the RNC's best shot. Begich, after all, only won election over the late Sen. Ted Stevens by 3,953 votes -- on the heels of Stevens being tried by a crooked federal prosecution team and convicted. Stevens only lost because the Alaskan Independence Party's Bob Bird snagged 13,197 votes.

Begich is vulnerable but the GOP is going to have to trot out more than Obamacare, itself a constitutionally abusive travesty, and, yes, Begich did cast the deciding vote -- but there is fertile ground elsewhere, in his Senate votes and in Anchorage.

He cost this city $100 million or so by stalling the Anchorage Telephone Utility sale. Then there is his infamous photo-radar revenue scam. When his pals rejiggered the rules to win city elections, he won the mayor's job by a dozen or so votes in 2003. As mayor, he spent money as fast as it could be printed. The approved city budget was $289.2 million when he was elected. The next year, $309.3 million; the next, $332.8 million. In 2006, it jumped to $367.2 million; in 2007, $399.4 million; and in 2008, the revised budget topped $431 million.

Begich pillaged city accounts, jacked up fees and when it came to the tax cap, he did more end runs than Adrian Peterson has ever done for the Vikings. As mayor, he played kissy-face with city unions and left behind fat, five-year contracts and a river of red ink for his successor, Matt Claman.

There are also lingering questions about hazardous waste being stripped from a shopping center construction site, transported without permits and dumped on city property during his watch. The list is long.

The GOP should shake off any notion that defeating Begich will be a cakewalk.

If this latest shot is the best it can do, heaven help Alaska.

Paul Jenkins is editor of the

Paul Jenkins