In some ways the senate race in Alaska is a contest of the shouldn’t-have-beens. Mark Begich the incumbent owes his seat to Ted Steven’s legal troubles which meant Bergich got a shot in a state that does not trend Democrat in general. Dan Sullivan’s primary victory was also a bit of a surprise as he defeated Joe Miller who had Sarah Palin’s endorsement. But Alaska is an independent minded state and it seems they may hold the nation in thrall as they make up those independent minds on election night. Right now a RealClearPolitics average of several polls has Sullivan ahead by 46.2% to 43.8%. That’s perhaps just a bit better than the margin of error, but final tallies of rural votes could leave the outcome uncertain until very late. The televised debate between the two candidates focused on fisheries, a very local issue to say the least. In some ways that’s because the values issues are pretty much decided in Alaska. Things like gun control and abortion do not play well there.

In a letter to Alaska voters published in a local paper, Dan Sullivan focused on Begich’s voting record, using the same 97% formula Tom Cotton has used successfully in Arkansas. Top-down health care and education rules and regulations from Washington as well as issues affecting small business and energy development were all on his list of challenges he would take on as senator. These issues should resonate with voters in Alaska, but a further key issue he touched on gives Sullivan an interesting advantage, and that’s national security. As a long time Marine Corps infantry officer with a tour of duty in Afghanistan just last year, Dan Sullivan can appeal to Alaskan’s keen sense of the importance of guarding the nation’s frontiers against terrorism and other threats. Alaskans live next door to Russia and lived next door to the Soviet Union for the better part of a century. While Europe and Turkey were key locations in the Cold War, Alaska was perhaps the most important focus for the US military. Alaskans understand, over several generations now, what it takes to keep America safe. Dan Sullivan certainly does, and it seems to be something voters in the state appreciate in increasing numbers.