How Big a Role Did Palin Play in Alaska Election Shocker?

She may still carry weight in her home state

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Republican Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is locked in a close, surprising, and potentially lengthy electoral deadlock with her Republican primary challenger, attorney Joe Miller. Miller, who enjoyed the backing of Sarah Palin and the wealthy Tea Party Express, is currently 3,000 votes up on Murkowski, although that number could change as absentee ballots are counted over the next two weeks. Did Miller maybe beat an eight-year veteran of the Senate due to Sarah Palin's support?

  • Palin Not So Active in Race The New York Times' Damien Cave writes, "Ms. Murkowski significantly outspent her opponent, Joe Miller, and had appeared to have a comfortable lead heading into the Republican primary. But results Wednesday morning showed Mr. Miller ahead by nearly 3,000 votes, capturing more than 51 percent of the total votes cast. Ms. Palin, a Republican and longtime political rival to the Murkowski family, endorsed Mr. Miller but took few obvious steps to support his candidacy beyond some posts on Facebook and Twitter."
  • Ballot Initiative, Not Palin, Drove Voters Slate's David Weigel gives two important factors for Miller's upset, carefully noting that Palin's endorsement was more about driving media coverage than actually convincing voters. "The first: The Tea Party Express threw around half a million dollars into the campaign on Miller's behalf. That's huge money in Alaska. Second: Measure 2, a parental consent ballot initiative, brought out pro-life voters who have never trusted Murkowski. Sarah Palin's early endorsement also handed Miller credibility and media attention which, in a GOP primary, was more important than Palin's increasing unpopularity in the state."
  • How Big a Role for Palin? Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey evaluates, "Palin's endorsement of Miller was seen as a long shot, as well as another volley in a years-long political feud between Palin and the Murkowskis. Few people gave the endorsement much chance of changing the status quo, especially since Murkowski didn't have a record that produced anywhere near as much ire among conservatives as Palin's former running mate John McCain -- who won his primary by 30 points. If Miller wins this race, it's a testament to the power of Palin in Alaska and the energy of the Tea Party."
  • Palin Rides Anti-Incumbent Wave The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes, "If Murkowski is defeated, she will follow Sens. Bob Bennet (R-Utah) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), both of whom were defeated in intraparty battles earlier this year. A Miller win would also be a major boon for Palin, who endorsed four other candidates in Tuesday's primaries, all of whom had won or were on track to win."
  • The Real Lesson From Murkowski University of Virginia professor and political handicapper Larry Sabato advises that it's not Palin. "Lesson most incumbents will take from Lisa's likely loss: If you don't use your big $ edge to go hard negative on challenger, you can lose."
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