Sen. Mark Begich has worked harder than just about any other endangered red-state Democrat to separate himself from an unpopular president this cycle. Distancing himself from the president's Cabinet, however, is another story.
When Alaska's junior senator was asked early this spring whether President Obama would be welcome on the trail for his reelection bid, the first-term Democrat gave an emphatic no, reminding his interviewer than he won his current seat in a year the president lost the state by more than 20 points.
"I don't need him campaigning for me—I need him changing some of his policies," Begich said in an interview after the State of the Union address. It's a message he's repeated in multiple campaign ads, knocking the administration on everything from Environmental Protection Agency regulations to failures by the Veterans Affairs Department.
But in the past several months, no fewer than five members of Obama's Cabinet have been out to Alaska. Newly installed Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro visited this week, touring Anchorage's Mountain View neighborhood with Begich. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez visited in July, stopping along the way to help Begich shore up support with his union backers. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz came up mid-August for a roundtable on Alaska's mega-gas line project, as did Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, both of whom also attended fundraisers for the Democrat while there.