Almost four years since she ended the career of Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski, Sarah Palin polished off the career of his daughter, Sen. Lisa Murkowski. The Republican nominee for Alaska’s U.S. Senate seat is lawyer and military veteran Joe Miller.
Miller had ended the Alaska primaries slightly ahead of Murkowski, but a count of absentee ballots was necessary to confirm the victory. Murkowski conceded when it became clear that the absentee vote would not put her over the top.
Palin, a former governor of Alaska and national political figure, had endorsed Miller and recorded a robocall on his behalf. Miller was also a Tea Party favorite, seen as more in line with small-government virtues than Murkowski, a member of the Senate GOP leadership. Miller was thus catapulted from relative obscurity to a surprise primary victory. Miller is well ahead in the polls over his Democratic opponent, Scott McAdams, and so is likely to become the next junior senator from Alaska, which is, in any event, a Republican-leaning state.
Murkowski is just the latest incumbent to be defeated in the primaries, a list that includes two United States senators, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Robert Bennett of Utah, and a number of House members. This suggests public discontent not just against Democrats, but also against Republicans who are considered insufficiently attuned to the small-government zeitgeist of our times. Sen. Bennett voted for bank bailouts and Specter turned his coat from Republican to Democrat in an attempt to retain his seat against a stiff challenge from Pat Toomey.
Primary wins by politicians like Joe Miller suggest that the 112th Congress will not only be far different than the Democratic 111th Congress, but even different from recent, pre-2006 Republican Congresses that seemed to be too domesticated to the wicked, free-spending ways of Washington. The new Congress will likely resemble more the Gingrich Revolution Congress elected in 1994: new to power and determined to enact change.
Will the new Congress be able to maintain its small government fervor? Certainly having Barack Obama to play against will help. No doubt the legislative battles to come will be entertaining and dramatic. Obama lacks the political nimbleness to tack to the center and make deals to get things done. Doubtless, the last two years of Obama’s term as president will feature GOP efforts to roll back the his agenda, especially health care reform, on the part of Congress and attempts by the President to prevent this.
And that neatly sets things up for 2012.