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Could a Win by Tea Party Backed Joe Miller Help Dems?


This post originally appeared on Booman Tribune.

It looks like Sarah Palin got the scalp she wanted most:

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is battling for her political life this morning against Republican primary challenger Joe Miller, the Tea Party-backed candidate who had a slim lead as ballots continued to be counted overnight. Miller, a Fairbanks attorney, led from when the first returns came in Tuesday night, and was on the verge of pulling off one of the biggest election upsets ever in Alaska. With 84 percent of Alaska's precincts reporting around 2 a.m., Miller had 45,188 votes to 42,633 for Murkowski.

Joe Miller is promising something unprecedented for an Alaskan politician. He's promising to kill off the federal spending that Alaskans depend on for their livelihood. The recently departed Ted Stevens made his entire career on hauling federal appropriations back to Alaska. His best friend was the long-time Democratic senator from Hawai'i, Daniel Inouye. They bonded over their shared mission to build their relatively new states economically. Now, suddenly, the Alaskan Republican Party has gone 180 degrees in the opposite direction and embraced the tea bag.

While it seemed unthinkable yesterday, there is now the prospect of Alaska having two Democratic senators. Whether Democratic nominee and mayor of Sitka Scott McAdams can capitalize on the schism on the right will depend on how angry Murkowski's supporters are with Sarah Palin and the outside influence of the Tea Party Express. Early indications are that feelings are raw.

Murkowski on Tuesday night took a shot at Palin, saying that when Palin resigned as governor last summer she said she would use her new national role to help out Alaska."I think she's out for her own self-interest. I don't think she's out for Alaska's interest," Murkowski said as she waited at her campaign headquarters for results to come in...

...Murkowski criticized Miller's campaign tactics, including the use of robo-calls. "It doesn't feel like it was a campaign that was run by Alaskans," Murkowski said on Tuesday night.

Despite the Tea Party's heavy investment and influence, abortion also played a major role in Murkowski's (seeming) defeat.

Murkowski's pro-choice stance is a particularly sore point, one that Miller supporters hammered her on.Tuesday's primary election also included Ballot Measure 2, which would require parents to be notified before their teens age 17 and younger received an abortion. Miller said he thinks that brought out voters who supported him over Murkowski, even though she supported the ballot measure as well.

"The Prop. 2 supporters were our supporters, largely. ... Frankly I think the pro-life vote was important," Miller said on Tuesday night.

Of course, you wouldn't have known that Murkowski was pro-choice since she supported the parental notification ballot measure and voted against the confirmation of both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Even so, Murkowski was what passes for a moderate Republican these days. Her biggest problem was probably the same thing that killed off Utah senator Bob Bennett's career. She is an appropriator who understands how the federal government functions and who takes responsibility for funding its agencies. At a time when the Republican Party is in full-minority opposition, there is no valid use of federal dollars in the minds of most GOP base voters. Of course, the second they have to take responsibility for funding the government again, all this bullshit rhetoric will be gone as fast as Dick Cheney can say that deficits don't matter.

This result reinvigorates Sarah Palin's profile, bolsters the Tea Baggers, sends a warning shot against even modest cooperation with the Democrats, and wipes out one of the few Republicans willing to vote with the Democrats at least some of the time. It's bad all around. It's bad for Alaska. Murkowski recently became the Ranking Member on the Energy and Commerce Committee, a position of great possible benefit to Alaska's economy. Now their senior senator will be freshman backbencher Mark Begich. Alaska hasn't been this bereft of seniority in living memory.

But this could open the way for Scott McAdams if he can successfully reach out to Murkowski's people. We shall see.