As votes continue to be counted, Sen. Lisa Murkowski is in danger of losing Alaska’s GOP Senate primary. Joe Miller, a little-known Fairbanks attorney, now leads Murkowski by about 2,000 votes with 98 percent of precincts reporting, according to an unofficial count by the Associated Press.
Though the final tally may not be known for days, thanks to thousands of absentee ballots waiting to be counted, Miller is confident that he can pull off the upset. “The response to our campaign really exploded this past week,” Miller said in an interview with National Review Online. “We benefited from an incredible wave of support. Alaskans tend to put stuff off until the last minute. In the past few days, they got educated.”
Miller, a self-described “constitutional conservative,” was boosted by a last-minute money blitz from the Tea Party Express, which reportedly spent over $550,000 on the race. Abortion may have also played a role in generating turnout. On Tuesday’s ballot there was a measure requiring parental notification for women 17 and younger seeking an abortion. The proposal, Ballot Measure 2, passed with 55 percent of the vote. Miller was endorsed by Alaska Right to Life.
Miller also received high-profile endorsements from Mike Huckabee and, most notably, Sarah Palin, who recorded a robo-call for Miller in the campaign’s final days. Palin’s support, he says, was “pivotal.”
Miller’s and Palin’s paths have aligned before. Two years ago, Miller helped Palin try to oust the state GOP chairman. Though they were unsuccessful, the pair bonded. “He has fought alongside me and others to help clean up the Republican Party here in Alaska by bringing in new leadership, new ideas, and commitment to putting government back on the side of the people, not any political machine,” Palin noted in her endorsement. Miller also supported Palin in 2006, when she beat Murkowski’s father, Gov. Frank Murkowski, in Alaska’s GOP gubernatorial primary.
Miller, along with Senate hopefuls Rand Paul in Kentucky and Sharron Angle in Nevada, hopes to be part of a new conservative nucleus in the upper chamber. Like that pair, “I align with Sen. Jim DeMint and Sen. Tom Coburn, both of whom are phenomenal voices for reform,” he says.
Miller grew up in Kansas, but came to Alaska “by choice” in 1994, after taking a degree from Yale Law School and picking up a Bronze Star in Desert Storm. After a childhood of hunting and fishing, “the can-do attitude, the rough living, the great outdoors — it had a magnetizing pull,” he says.
As he and his team chart the numbers, Miller tells us that he remains upbeat. His latest joke on Twitter: “What’s the moose hunting like in the Beltway?”
Murkowski, if she is defeated, would be the third senator to lose this cycle, following Sen. Bob Bennett (R., Utah) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.).