Mitt Romney may be taking a whipping from the far right flank of the Republican Party this week -- first, across the Midwest in the Colorado and Minnesota primaries, and continuing currently at CPAC 2012 -- but he's already looking toward Super Tuesday and the bevy of delegates up for grabs in March, including those of Alaska.
Romney on Thursday announced members of his Alaska Steering Committee. And there a few major league Alaska politicians and other civic leaders going to bat for the former Massachusetts governor.
Included in the Romney 2012 Alaska entourage:
- Lisa Murkowski, Alaska's senior U.S. senator
- Mead Treadwell, Alaska's lieutenant governor and former U.S. Arctic Commission chairman
- David Dittman, pollster emeritus and political consultant extraordinaire
- Rex Shattuck, chief of staff to Mat-Su Republican Rep. Mark Neuman
Several other prominent Alaskans also made the list, which can be found at Mitt Romney's campaign website.
Alaska's delegates are poised to play a surprisingly big role in the 2012 race. The 49th state's true-blue Republicans were faithful to the party leadership's nominating schedule. And while the majority of Alaskans identify as independents, Alaska still maintains a sizable Republican voting bloc and a center-right electorate. In party politics, all these things play well for Alaska.
Romney won Alaska handily in 2008, followed in order by Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul and John McCain. Expect Rep. Paul's supporters -- of which he has many in Alaska -- to give Romney a run for his money, if the 2008 contest serves as any guide.
Whoever wins Alaska's delegates will also enjoy the cachet they bring. A few notable, national tea party leaders hail from the Last Frontier. Sarah Palin, a vocal supporter of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, and Joe Miller, a tea party PAC director, are headline-grabbers and if Romney can win on their home turf it's bound to bring a psychological boost.
But Palin and Miller don't represent Alaska's Republicans. At all. In fact, most of Alaska's currently elected Republicans are of a much less-ideological strain -- conservatives in the "big tent" mold of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Enter very popular politicians like Murkowski and Treadwell, Romney's Alaska surrogates.
"Mitt Romney has had the lifelong experiences needed to turn around our economy," Sen. Murkowski said in a Romney campaign announcement. "Whether it was his ability to turn around the Massachusetts economy or turn around businesses in the private sector, Mitt Romney has demonstrated the leadership that we need in the White House to get the country on the right track. He has also laid out a plan to get our country on the path toward energy independence. Mitt Romney understands the importance of Alaska as a leader in our country's energy production and I look forward to working with him on such an important economic and national security matter."
"More than any other candidate, (Romney) stands for a prosperous future for Alaska and the nation," Lt. Gov. Treadwell said of Romney.
Romney was the first candidate to qualify for Alaska's presidential preference poll. Gingrich, Santorum and Paul all have qualified as well, according to Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich.
Alaska Republicans will vote for their GOP presidential nominee on March 6.
Contact Eric Christopher Adams at eric(at)alaskadispatch.com