Just 48 hours before Alaskans hold a special election, no Republican who spoke to Newsmax was willing to predict whether Sarah Palin would emerge triumphant in the race for Alaska's at-large U.S. House seat — the first contest to be held under the state's new "ranked choice voting" law.
"It's anybody's call," a former GOP statewide official told us on Saturday.
2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and former Gov. Palin, who topped the initial, all-candidate primary in June with 30%, has the blessings of Donald Trump — considered the gold standard for Republicans. The former president actually appeared in Alaska at a rally on behalf of Palin and fellow conservative Kelly Tshibaka (who is challenging Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski in November).
But in recent weeks, Palin has come under strong fire from one of the three candidates on the ballot: fellow Republican and entrepreneur Nick Begich, III, grandson of Alaska's last Democratic congressman, who had 19% in the first race. Begich, the top fundraiser in the race for the seat of the late Republican Rep. Don Young, recently unleashed a hard-hitting radio spot directed at Palin and her resignation as governor in 2009 to pursue celebrity endeavors.
"Sarah Palin is a quitter," blared the announcer in the Begich spot, "She's a quitter. She quit on us. She left us. She abandoned us. We picked her to do a job, and she didn't bother to finish it. Because she wanted to go out there and get rich and famous."
The ad features small business owner Athena Fulton dismissing Palin as a celebrity "who didn't want to be stuck in Wasilla [Palin's hometown] and ends with a clip of Palin appearing on "The Masked Singer" tearing off her disguise as a bear.
Begich himself dismisses Palin as "intellectually deleterious" and "self-aggrandizing."
"Full of bull," is how Palin described Begich at a tele-rally last week, calling her fellow Republican a "RINO" (Republican in name only) and reminding supporters Begich has supported Democrats — notably his uncle, former Sen. Mark Begich.
The invective between the two Republican hopefuls could be dangerous under the ranked choice rules, in which voters have the option to list their second choices for the House. Should no candidate achieve a majority Tuesday, then the third placed candidate in the race is eliminated. The process continues until one candidate has a majority of votes.
The third contender on the ballot is former state Rep. Mary Peltola, a progressive Democrat in the mold of New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has let Palin and Begich fight it out and carefully avoided any attacks on either Begich or Palin. Even Republicans concede that Peltola's "nice lady" style of campaigning has helped her and she could win the race.
Further complicating the race is the decision by a Republican who also ran in the June primary, former Assistant U.S. Secretary of the Interior Tara Sweeney, to run as a write-in candidate on Tuesday.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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