ST. PAUL — Barack Obama prevailed in the February 5 Democratic presidential caucuses in Alaska by one of the largest margins he achieved in any of the many state battles that led to his nomination last week.
And, despite the fact that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been selected by presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain as his running-mate, the Obama campaign plans to keep running hard in the state — just as it is in McCain’s home-state of Arizona.
That’s a reflection both of Obama’s proven appeal in Alaska and of deep concerns about the wisdom of putting a controversial and inexperienced governor one heartbeat away from the presidency.
Let’s begin with the comparison of how Obama and McCain did in their respective caucus contests earlier this year.
On the Democratic side, Obama secured 74 percent of the vote to just 25 percent for Hillary Clinton.
On the Republican side, John McCain ran fourth in the Republican caucuses the same day. Mitt Romney took first place with 44 percent, Mike Huckabee was in second with 22 percent and Ron Paul took third with 17 percent. McCain barely secured the 15 percent support needed to accumulate delegates.
Since February, Obama activists have been on the ground in the state — organizing hard and talking up the prospect that Alaska could back Democrat for president for the first time in decades.
It is certainly reasonable to imagine that McCain has improved his prospects by naming the personally-popular Palin as his running mate.
But the Obama camp is not giving up on Alaska. And rightly so. Though the state has just three electoral votes, there are great symbolic and practical arguments for continuing to campaign there.
Obama backers were busy registering young voters in communities across the state this weekend, as part of a national drive.
Obama’s campaign has, by every evidence, been working the state harder than the McCain’s camp for months. With offices open or set to open in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and other communities, the campaign has had 40 paid staffer in the state this summer.
The Democrat’s supporters recently launched an “Alaska Bush Field campaign for Obama” — which aims to run up the candidate’s votes in remote villages accessible only by air or watercraft.
The August 21 launch took place in Barrow, the northernmost community in the United States and dozens of people showed up for the event at a local roller rink.