March 20
FILE - In this March 28, 2012 file photo, Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Begich is co-sponsoring the legislation to raise the federal minimum wage. Alaska has a stronger economy and more powerful unions than Arkansas, and a state minimum wage exceeding the federal standard. Two Democratic senators named Mark, both seeking re-election this year from Republican-leaning states, illustrate how local politics is complicating the push by President Barack Obama and his party to raise the federal minimum wage. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

There’s a partially artificial distinction we make when talking about electoral campaigning between “issues” and “personality.” When a candidate tells you he “stood up to the special interests” (as nearly every incumbent does; it’s amazing how much standing up to the special interests must be going on in Washington), is that about issues or personality? There’s always some issue ostensibly at play, but the real message is that this a guy who’s strong, principled, and unafraid to confront those who have power but don’t deserve it.

 And even campaign ads that are really and truly about personality always manage to toss in mention of an issue or two, just to remind you that lawmakers actually do things, and perhaps so you can tell yourself that if you’re persuaded by the soft music and heartwarming visuals, you’re actually making a rational decision based on substance. But personality ads don’t come much more heart-tugging, and well-produced, than this ad for Alaska senator Mark Begich:

His wife (who’s doing the voice-over) doesn’t have to tell us he’s brave, because we learn how his father was killed in the crash of a small plane and then see him getting into a small plane. If you’re from the lower 48, you almost want to shout, “Don’t do it, Senator! It’s a death trap!” But in Alaska, there are places you can’t reach except by plane, so Begich gets to show his Alaska-ness and his courage (and manages to do so without shooting anything; take note, Ms. Palin).

Depending on whom you ask, Begich is either in a tight race or will win fairly easily in November. In one awesome detail, a spokesperson for one of Begich’s potential Republican opponents said a poll showing Begich with a comfortable lead “ignores the space-time continuum.” Woah, dude, you totally blew my mind.

You can’t say too often that skillful admaking, while certainly something you’d rather have, is seldom decisive in a race. But if Begich keeps turning out ads like this one, it can’t hurt.