AK: Remote Super Tuesday Outpost
By Christopher Lee
Big, sparsely populated and very remote, Alaska will be far removed from the action on Super Tuesday in more ways than one.
Candidates get little bang for their buck by campaigning or running ads there and, unsurprisingly, presidential hopefuls have spent no time on the ground and little on ads. And, of course, the winters in Alaska make Iowa and New Hampshire appear downright balmy.
None of that will stop party die-hards from coming out on Tuesday, of course. Democratic officials say moving the party's caucuses up from their usual March date to Super Tuesday has generated substantial interest, including telephone inquiries from reporters across the country and the world -- even Al-Jazeera.
In 2004, just 700 of the Alaska's 68,000 registered Democrats took part in the caucuses in eight locations - in a state three times the size of California. This year there will be 28 locations, and party leaders are expecting a bigger turnout. Some of the districts are so large, and travel in them so difficult, that groups of voters will meet via teleconference as they help determine who will get the 13 of the state's 18 national delegates that are awarded in proportion to vote totals by candidates.
While the main Democratic matchup is Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton, Tuesday's contest probably represents the best shot for badly struggling former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel (D) to leave any kind of impression at all in the race.
Republicans will be holding their first caucuses - technically a "presidential preference vote" -- in eight years, having skipped the exercise when President Bush was seeking re-election. The party has more than 118,000 registered voters in the state. At stake are 26 delegates to the Republican National Convention that will be awarded based on the percentage of the vote won by each candidate.
Whichever Republican walks away with the eventual nomination can probably count on Alaska in November. Bush took 61 percent of the vote there in 2004 and 59 percent four years earlier, and Alaska has not sent a Democrat to Congress in more than 30 years.
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