Stevens’ (and Palin’s) next move

STEVENS’ (AND PALIN’S) NEXT MOVE…. Shortly after a jury convicted Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) on seven felony counts, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), head of the NRSC, ostensibly charged with the task of helping Stevens get another term, issued a strongly worded statement. “Ted Stevens served his constituents for over 40 years and I am disappointed to see his career end in disgrace,” Ensign said.

Oddly enough, Stevens doesn’t see it that way.

A defiant Sen. Ted Stevens is returning to Alaska on Wednesday to resume his re-election campaign, despite being convicted of felonies that carry the potential of years in prison. […]

Hours [after the conviction], the news had settled in. The guards were gone, the campaign ordered Moose’s Tooth pizza for its workers and Stevens’ backers started talking about what’s next.

“I think it will be a battle but we’re going to throw every ounce of effort into doing so,” said political consultant Art Hackney, who is working on the Stevens campaign. Hackney said it’s going to be a “nonstop campaigning, very aggressive,” once Stevens gets back to Alaska.

Stevens will apparently not be able to even cast a vote for himself, and hopes to become the first convicted felon ever elected to the U.S. Senate.

The other angle worth considering here is that of Stevens ally Sarah Palin, who helped run Stevens’ political group and who relied on Stevens’ support to get elected. Yesterday, even after the verdict, Palin wouldn’t say whether or not she plans to vote for Stevens, and declined to say whether she believes he should step down.

A.L. argued that this was a missed opportunity that McCain and Palin were foolish to pass up: “[W]hy the reluctance to criticize a man now that is now a convicted felon? Why not call for him to step down? Isn’t that a no-brainer? Stevens is going to lose anyway and the McCain/Palin campaign is desperate for some good media coverage. This is right in their wheelhouse. And yet they’re not swinging.”

I’m reminded of something Palin said just a few months ago about Stevens: “I have great respect for the senator, and he needs to be heard across America. His voice, his experience, his passion needs to be heard across America…. There’s a big difference between reality and perception [about] our relationship.”

I don’t know what that means, but given yesterday’s verdict, I’m looking forward to Palin’s explanation.

Update: McCain has called on Stevens to resign from the Senate. No word from Palin.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.