If national opinion polls can be believed, the only Alaska Republican politician with a decent shot at unseating Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in 2014 is Gov. Sean Parnell. Public Policy Polling has Parnell and Begich knotted at 48 percent of the vote each. Other Republican contenders trail badly.
A poll conducted by GOP pollster Harper Polling on behalf of Conservative Intelligence Briefing puts Parnell comfortably in front of Begich -- 46 to 40 percent. Parnell has expressed no public interest in running for the Senate, though there has been speculation.
Both Public Policy Polling and Harper indicate the conservative Republican, who took over office when Gov. Sarah Palin resigned in 2008 and won election on his own in 2010, is a shoo-in for re-election if he decides to give the governor's mansion another go in 2014.
His running mate, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, has expressed interest in taking a shot at the Senate in 2014 and formed an exploratory committee, but his chances against Begich do not look good. Though well-known in Alaska business circles, Treadwell lacks for name recognition in much of the state.
Harper has him down 34-44 to Begich, Public Policy has him behind 39-47. But Treadwell fares better than Joe Miller, the Republican who beat incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in the party's 2010 primary only to stumble on ethics issues and lose to a write-in candidate Murkowski in the general election.
Some think Miller -- now an Alaska blogger and Tea Party activist -- could make another bid for the Senate, and some Republican insiders give him a good chance of winning the party's primary.
Should he face Begich, however, Harper predicts he would get clobbered 52 to 39 percent. Public Policy has Begich winning 58 to 30. Miller's problem is with his negatives. They're so high he's the only candidate who pushes Begich's percentage over a majority in both polls.
The Public Policy poll also has Palin pushing Begich to a big win -- 54 to 38 percent, but Harper paints the state as more sympathetic to the former governor and failed candidate for vice president. Harper predicts Begich would win a race against Palin, but with something less than a majority. Begich polls 47 percent to 40 percent in that race.
Palin has a problem not unlike that of Miller.
"Palin's numbers are a reflection of her continuing to be very unpopular on the home front," Public Policy concluded. "34% of voters see her positively to 59% with a negative opinion. She looks popular by comparison to Miller though- he has only a 20% favorability rating with 63% of voters giving him poor marks."
A Daily Kos blog entry of recent polls and news stories regarding Begich goes to great length to make the argument for why Begich, who squeaked into office by only 4,000 votes in 2008, could win re-election in a long Republican-owned state. He won last time, in part, because incumbent Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, had been convicted by a Washington, D.C., jury of illegally taking campaign funds, and because Palin, then one of the most popular politicians in the country, was calling for Stevens to resign from the Senate.
An Alaska legend, Stevens' conviction was reversed after it was revealed federal prosecutors had badly mislead the jury about Stevens. He was still battling to fully clear his name when he died tragically in a plane crash.