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Alaska Sen. Mark Begich: I voted for Obama, but that's "irrelevant"

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, speaks during a hearing, November 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

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Democratic Sen. Mark Begich has distanced himself from President Obama as he seeks reelection in deeply conservative Alaska, but he acknowledged Wednesday that he voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Still, Begich added, those votes are "irrelevant" because the president is leaving office in two years.

The remarks came during an interview with the Washington Examiner, when the senator was asked whether he voted for the president.

"I did, but that's irrelevant," Begich replied. "The president's not relevant. He's gone in two years."

Begich may have decided that candor was the right approach to the question after watching another Democrat locked in a tight Senate race - Kentucky's Alison Lundergan Grimes - struggle to form a response. Grimes, who's running against Sen. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, came under fire earlier this month after repeatedly refusing to answer whether she voted for the president.

By contrast, Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn opted for a more forthright answer when she was asked by the Washington Post.

"I did vote for the president," she said. "I have said throughout the campaign that we need more people in Washington working with the president - Republican or Democrat - to get things done. I pledge to do that on behalf of Georgians."

The question has proven to be a thorny one because of the president's relative unpopularity in conservative states like Alaska, Georgia, and Kentucky. Republican candidates in each state have sought to nationalize the race by linking their opponents to the president. Democrats, meanwhile, have touted their disagreements with the Mr. Obama, pitching themselves as independent thinkers.

According to a CBS News/New York Times analysis released earlier this month, all three races are tight, with a slight advantage for the Republicans. Nunn is trailing GOP candidate David Perdue in Georgia, 43 to 47 percent. Grimes is behind McConnell in Kentucky, 41 to 47 percent, and Begich trails his Republican opponent, Dan Sullivan, 42 to 48 percent.