It seems that there is a grueling Republican primary race going on in Alaska. Incumbent senator Lisa Murkowski currently trails Tea Party-backed challenger Joe Miller by less than 3,000 votes after Tuesday’s primary election. According to the Anchorage Daily News, with 84 percent of Alaska’s precincts reporting, the relatively unknown Joe Miller has a 51-to-49 percent lead. And although many are commenting on the ability of a relatively unknown candidate to challenge and perhaps defeat Murkowski, who has the added advantage of her family’s political name and clout, much of the press has zeroed in on the fact that Miller had the endorsement of Sarah Palin. In fact, Sarah Palin’s support has become THE story for many.
With titles like “The Sarah Palin Effect? Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski Trails Tea Party Challenger Joe Miller” (New York Daily News) and “Alaska Election Results Provide A Boost To Palin” (CBS News), the coverage of the Alaska Primary election results have been decidedly focused on the half-term governor who threw her support behind Tea Party favorite Joe Miller. Although her support likely helped get his name circulated far more than he would have gotten otherwise, one has to truly wonder how much of a real impact Sarah Palin, who many in Alaska feel simply quit her job as Alaska’s elected governor last summer to pursue lucrative book contracts and speaking engagements, had on the primary election.
Miller admits that she was of some benefit to his campaign. He told the Anchorage Daily News, “I’m absolutely certain that was pivotal.”
Lisa Murkowski, who has had past run-ins with Sarah Palin (even though the two say they’re not political enemies), was less charitable to the ex-governor when she spoke to reporters at her campaign headquarters Tuesday evening: “‘I think she’s out for her own self-interest,’ Murkowski observed. ‘I don’t think she’s out for Alaska’s interest.'”
But Murkowski may not be in the mood for charity of late. Just three weeks ago, she held a comfortable lead over Joe Miller in the polls. But with Palin and the Tea Party trumpeting Miller, that lead closed. Now, with nearly 85 percent of the precincts in Alaska accounted for, Miller just might be on the verge of an upset.
But many are asking if his success was mostly Sarah Palin’s doing.
Of course, the opposite could be asked in the case of Karen Handel, the “mama grizzly” supported by Palin to represent the Republicans on the ballot in November in Georgia’s gubernatorial race. In the end, after a close primary, Karen Handel was defeated by Nathan Deal.
According to a political tracker set up by the Washington Post, Sarah Palin’s support has had mixed results thus far, but it indicates that her support, at least in primaries, seems to have been beneficial for two-thirds of candidates she has supported.
The operative word may be “seems.” An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in June revealed that 37 percent of those surveyed would be “very uncomfortable” with a Sarah Palin endorsement for a candidate. Another 15 percent had reservations about a Palin endorsement. Only 8 percent were “very comfortable” with the idea. So it would seem that Palin’s endorsement may not be much of a helpful factor in a given race.
When it is all said and done (Alaska Primary election results should be final in a week, once all or nearly all absentee ballots are counted), the winner of the Republican primary will contend with Scott McAdams, the mayor of Sitka, Alaska, who had a comfortable lead in the Democratic primary Tuesday. The Alaska U.S. Senate seat usually favors Republicans, but with the current volatility of the political landscape, including the political infusion of Tea Party movement, the Alaska senate seat could be up for grabs.