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Alaska Gov.: Results Matter, Not Manners

Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's (R) decision to seek a second term amid dismal polling numbers was greeted with shock by many political observers.

Gov. Frank Murkowski
Gov. Frank Murkowski surprised many Alaskans when he announced his bid for a second term. Above, Murkowski announces his reelection campaign on May 26 at Soapy Smith's Pioneer Restaurant in Fairbanks. (AP Photo)

Turns out that's not the only surprise the governor has for us.

Murkowski's campaign placed a full-page ad in several Alaska newspapers in which the governor all but apologizes for his brash and at times abrasive personality.

"I agree. I admit it. I'm a long, long way from perfect," Murkowski writes in the ad. "At one time or another I've made nearly the entire state of Alaska mad at me. Maybe I should consider a personality transplant."

The incumbent then pivots to argue that "sometimes it takes a strong will to make things happen." For example, he says the "dream" of a natural gas pipeline is "now closer to reality" -- a development that could bring billions of dollars of revenue to the state each year, according to Murkowski. He also touts his work on education in the ad: "today over half of Alaska's college-bound students attend the University of Alaska."

While Murkowski's mea culpa is decidedly unorthodox it may be necessary given the state of his poll numbers. According to Survey USA results released in earlier this month, only 20 percent of Alaskans approve of the job Murkowski is doing, compared with 78 percent who disapprove. That 58-point differential is the second worst in the country, behind only Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (18 approve/79 disapprove), who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges related to his failure to report gifts earlier this cycle. (We've expressed concern about automated dial polls in the past, but believe firmly that Survey USA is the best of the bunch.)

Murkowski's first hurdle is the state's Aug. 22 primary where he faces two high-profile challengers -- businessman John Binkley and former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin.

Should Murkowski win the GOP nomination, he will likely face former two-term Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles in the fall. (See's profile of the Alaska race.)

The combination of Knowles's past electoral success in the Last Frontier and the uncertainty surrounding the GOP nominee, Alaska cracked The Fix's Friday Line rankings of governors races last week.

Read the full text of the Murkowski newspaper ad after the jump.

Text of the Murkowski newspaper ad:

I agree.

I admit it.

I'm a long, long way from perfect.

At one time or another, I've made nearly the entire state of Alaska mad at me.

Maybe I should consider a personality transplant.

But in Alaska, sometimes it takes a strong will to make things happen.

The Alaskan "dream" of a natural gas pipeline is now closer to reality. It will be a second Prudhoe Bay that can bring billions of dollars to Alaskans each year.

In addition, when approved by the legislature, our current Petroleum Production Tax (PPT) agreement
could provide an additional billion dollars a year for Alaskans, beginning now.

And while our gas line negotiations have been in the headlines, we have also quietly strengthened nearly every aspect of Alaska - - particularly K-12 education and the U of A system. Today, over half of Alaska's college-bound students attend the University of Alaska.

And there's a lot more.

Altogether, I believe we're on the right track. And even though I have some areas to improve on,
I believe I have the best background to successfully serve Alaska at this important time.

I'd appreciate your support very much.

Thank you,


The Fix confirmed that the ad ran in the Anchorage Daily News, the Ketchikan Daily News, the Juneau Empire and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. If you know of others, please post in the comments section below.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 21, 2006; 4:07 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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It's amazing to me how Outside "experts" seem to assume that this is a Knowles-Murkowski race. It's very, very doubtful that Murkowski will survive the primary. It's doubtful that he'll even come in second place.
Right now, the GOP race seems to be Palin's to lose. She has incredibly enthusiastic supporters, high positives and is well-liked even by liberals who disagree with most of her positions. I guess it doesn't hurt that she's incredibly attractive, too. Palin has long been underestimated and wrongly dismissed as a lightweight, I think.
She would definitely be Knowles' toughest competitor, or at least that's what the polls say.
And to echo a previous comment, yes, The Fix errs big time by ignoring Halcro. Halcro could be a serious player. Also, Alaska gubernatorial races tend to be three-way contests, something that has affected outcomes in the past.

Posted by: no name | June 22, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

check out Halcro's web page.

Posted by: akvoter | June 22, 2006 12:17 PM | Report abuse

The Fix keeps missing the role former State Representative Andrew Halcro (R-Anchorage) who is running in the general election as an independant. The water cooler talk is that if Palin or Murkowski is the GOP nominee, then Halcro, a wealthy Anchorage rental car business owner, could play a huge role in the general election.

Murkowski's unfavorables, coupled with Palin's inexperience, ultra-conservative views, along with her being on the outs with the GOP rank and file, make Halcro an attractive alternative in the general election.

The worst scenario for Halcro and Knowles is if the GOP nominates former State Senator John Binkley (R-Fairbanks) also a wealthy business man. He is popular, has no negatives in polling, and is an attractive candidate to all GOP voters after the primary.

Posted by: akvoter | June 22, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

It is difficult to see Murkowski climbing out of this. The dial poll almost certainly exaggerates the numbers in that it is not a poll of voters, but of residents. Among people who actually turn out, Murkowski is likely to be doing rather better. Alaska is also, of course, a GOP state. Some people who don't like Murkowski will still vote for him, if he is the Republican candidate.

But all this adds up to one thing. He won't lose by 58 points. But he will still lose.

Quentin Langley
editor of

Posted by: Quentin Langley | June 22, 2006 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Murkowski's still going down under the wave.

Gonna be FUN!

Posted by: Will in Seattle | June 21, 2006 6:17 PM | Report abuse

This isn't totally a first for Alaska politics. Don Young did something similar in, I think, 1990, and Tom Fink was able to use ads like this to get re-elected many years ago as Anchorage mayor, despite some really negative ratings.
But with Murkowski, the problem isn't style. There are big, substantive disagreements with his policies, most notably with his strategy of making big concessions to Big Oil to get some kind of vague promise of a future gas pipeline.

Posted by: alaskan | June 21, 2006 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Alaska's still a state?

Posted by: TheIrishCurse | June 21, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

He's slimy but not slick. That's a bad combination in politics.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | June 21, 2006 4:47 PM | Report abuse

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