Tuesday, filling in as host of a local Anchorage radio talk show, Begich was directly asked by a caller if he would run for office next cycle and he said “I don’t know what I’ll do in ‘16.” He went on to say “If the question is, will I ever be engaged in policy in the future, ehh, you know, I love public policy.”
Listen to the audio here:
audio courtesy of KFQD
The caller’s question was clearly referencing Alaska’s other Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is up for re-election in 2016 and recent polling showed is not as universally popular as she was at this point six years ago, when she ended up losing the Republican primary to challenger Joe Miller.
The question and answer was a sly exchange for a politician with a reputation for long-term political planning. Begich may not have made a decision on whether or not to pull the trigger and run in 2016, but does anyone in Alaska politics really believe he is not already contemplating to run or not? The answer is no.
The clock isn’t working against Begich here. In 2008, when Begich took on legendary Alaska Senator Ted Stevens he didn’t make any announcements until late February, and this time around he could wait even longer.
Begich could use a different version of the same strategy Alaska democrats successfully employed in the 2014 Alaska gubernatorial race. In that scenario Begich would recruit a placeholder to run for the Democratic Party’s nomination, have them drop out after the primary, and get the party to select him as the replacement. If a primary race damages Sen. Murkowski or if Republicans nominate a weak general election candidate, Begich would be poised to take advantage.
The odds for such a scenario could be increasing. There are public reports from those involved in Miller’s 2010 run for Senate saying he has been gathering core campaign supporters in the last few weeks to decide if he wants to take on Sen. Murkowski again.
That coupled with Begich’s refusal to rule out a run certainly opens tantalizing possibilities for this race to get very interesting, very quickly.
This all makes Lisa Murkowski’s more aggressive campaign ground work this election cycle all the more important. She may very well need every scrap of it.