Red State Democrats on the Edge! Alaska's Mary Peltola on Biden: 'One of the Smartest, Sharpest People'

AP Photo/Becky Bohrer

Red state Democrats are looking at the 2024 elections as a snowshoe hare might look at an approaching lynx: with apprehension, no small amount of fear, and wondering whether the cat is hungry or not. Alaska's Mary Peltola is one of those red-state Democrats, and her enthusiastic endorsement of Joe Biden's reelection effort may well cost her in November. Must Read Alaska's Suzanne Downing has weighed in:

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The shock-and-awe effect on Democrats continues this weekend, a full three days after the stunning display of advanced dementia shown by President Joe Biden during Thursday’s 90-minute debate with former President Donald Trump.

Democrats across the country are speaking out — some trying to defend Biden, others calling for his withdrawal from the race. Four major newspaper editorial boards, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Atlanta Constitution, and even the Philadelphia Inquirer have called for Biden to drop.

But not the Alaska Democratic Party or Democrat Rep. Mary Peltola. They’re saying nothing.

In the case of Mrs. Peltola, that's likely due to embarrassment. She has enthusiastically endorsed Joe Biden's 2024 candidacy, claiming in February of 2024 that old Joe is "...one of the smartest, sharpest people I’ve met in D.C."

Yeah, right.

The last time Biden's mental acuity was "very, very on" was probably during the Reagan administration and it's transparent for Mary Peltola and other Democrats to make this claim — especially after last week's debate.

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Mary Peltola will be facing, almost certainly, one of two Republican candidates in November: Nick Begich or Lieutenant Governor Nancy Dahlstrom. (See my interview with Nick Begich here.) In the 2022 election, Mrs. Peltola had one thing going for her: She was able to hitch her wagon to Princess Lisa Murkowski's middle-of-the-road Senate campaign, and the two are aligned closely enough ideologically to make the sale possible. In blue areas of Alaska, like Anchorage and Juneau, in that election cycle, there were a lot of "Murkowski/Peltola" signs.

She doesn't have that advantage this time around.


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There's another factor: no Sarah Palin. The former governor still has enormous name recognition in Alaska, but that's not entirely positive; her name also motivates what there is of the political left in the Great Land to turn out. 2022 was a low-turnout year for Alaska, but the left seems to have done their part, and Mrs. Peltola won her first full term handily.

The final factor was ranked-choice voting (RCV). The repeal will be on the ballot in November, and with any luck, Alaska will return to the traditional closed-primary system — but that won't affect this year's election. RCV may save Mary Peltola, but the experience from 2022, we can hope, will educate the Republican candidates; the August primary will reveal a Republican front-runner, and if the other GOP candidate drops out at that point and endorses the front-runner, that may well remove the RCV confusion from the race, making it a one on one matchup. In Alaska, that's a significant advantage for the GOP. Nick Begich has already pledged to do exactly that, although Nancy Dahlstrom, as of this writing, has not.

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Whichever candidate ends up facing Mary Peltola — or if both of them end up doing so, which is possible under RCV — Mary Peltola's endorsement of Biden and her consistent insistence that the Emperor's new clothes are beautifully crafted and perfectly fitted will cost her in November. Both Begich and Dahlstrom should hammer her on that at every opportunity.

Suzanne Downing concludes:

Alaska Democrats across the state have clammed up as well, whistling past the graveyard of the Biden Administration. They appear to be waiting for instructions from the national party to know what to say.

The instructions haven’t been given to Peltola or Democrats in Alaska because there is a civil war in the Democratic Party right now, a struggle they created for themselves in 2020 when they put Biden in as their nominee, even though his dementia was already evident, but concealable by clever candidate handling personnel. 

Now they are paying the piper, having to decide if Biden’s successor Vice President Kamala Harris or some other candidate can be subbed in, and how to convince Biden and, importantly, First Lady Jill Biden, to let go of the White House.

That piper is warming up in the wings, and the tune he may be playing in the Great Land is "So Long, Mary Peltola."

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