If anything is clear in this political season so far, it is this: Mark Begich's liberal pals are increasingly desperate to hamstring the guy they fear in their black little hearts Begich will face -- and, if so, likely lose to -- in the November general election.
The tipoff? With the August primary still months away, Begich and Put Alaska First, a liberal super PAC, are pounding Dan Sullivan relentlessly with increasingly shrill ads -- and preparing to spend millions more to crank up the volume. It does not appear they are remotely aware there are other Republicans running for Begich's seat.
The negative message they are sprinting to hammer home before Sullivan can define himself? The former state attorney general and Natural Resources chief, they want you to believe, is not Alaskan enough; that he is a carpetbagger, a phony.
Sullivan's Alaska pedigree is his albatross, and the Begich camp has pounced on it like a chicken on a June bug -- with no plans to let go. There is nothing, after all, so suspect in Alaska as an outsider.
A new ad by Put Alaska First -- largely supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Senate Majority PAC -- features some guy who claims he is a hunter, and his dog. He accuses Sullivan, as DNR chief, of somehow hatching a scheme to snatch away hunting land or some other such silliness. It is unclear how Sullivan was to pull it off.
It ends: "Dan Sullivan. He's not one of us." So much for nuance.
None of the ad is remotely true, of course, but the left, by habit and inclination, too often welcomes truth like a vampire welcomes dawn -- and in politics nobody really cares. Perception is the coin of the realm, and the perception in the Begich camp -- likely bolstered by a scary poll or two and Sullivan's truckloads of campaign dough -- apparently is that for Begich to have the proverbial snowball's chance in November, Sullivan must be limping when the general election rolls around.
The downside is that launching an increasingly negative, nasty campaign so far in advance reeks of fear and shrinking options, and could boomerang. Alaskans will have time to remember, hey, almost everybody came from someplace else -- and they might start making comparisons. Begich may come to regret that.
Let's see, Sullivan is a lieutenant colonel with 20 years in the Marines, and a warrior. Begich once saw a tank in a parking lot. Sullivan has a lengthy record of state, national and international experience and has run two state-level agencies; Begich screwed up the Anchorage Telephone Utility sale and, as mayor, ran Anchorage's finances into the ground. Sullivan is a lawyer and a Harvard graduate with an economics degree; Begich graduated from high school. Sullivan did not vote 94 percent of the time with Obama and Reid; Begich has. Sullivan was not the pivotal vote for Obamacare; Begich was. Sullivan is not a liberal; Begich is.
To even get to the general election -- and despite the Begich camp's optimism about his success -- Sullivan must face off in the Republicans' August primary with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell -- who could turn out to be a formidable candidate in his own right -- and failed Senate candidate Joe Miller, who has a Bronze Star.
Treadwell, in the view of some, is the more attractive of the three for a variety of reasons and the easiest to sell to Alaskans. He has no baggage. He is as Alaskan as they come, a thinker, an Arctic policy guy, an unassuming presence, a guy who actually has won an election and has gotten a few nastygrams from Gov. Sean Parnell. He has yet to really turn on the juice in his campaign.
Then there is Miller, a Sarah P. acolyte with shaving issues. He still is smarting from winning the GOP primary in 2010 and then losing to incumbent Lisa Murkowski in a historic general election write-in. He blames the Republican Party for not supporting him after his primary victory.
He has zero chance in August, but there is speculation he could continue his second Senate bid as a third-party candidate to screw up the GOP works in November. Payback. That would finish him in Alaska.
If the Begich bunch is right, Sullivan is the guy. But who knows? For Begich, the only thing that guarantees him a win is getting Sarah Palin into the race.
Heaven help us all.
Paul Jenkins is editor the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.