The Palin Proxy War

Photo illustration by Kate Sheppard. | Flickr Sources: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lifeisaprayer/2815879337/">lifeisaprayer</a>, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joewmiller/4870895098/">Joe Miller</a>, and <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/senatorlisamurkowski/4421978595/in/set-72157623592449150/">Sen. Lisa Murkowski</a>.


Does Lisa Murkowski have something to worry about in her primary on Tuesday after all? A few weeks ago, the Tea Party Express was touting new polling numbers that suggested that their candidate of choice, Joe Miller, was gaining on incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski in Alaska’s primary race. I couldn’t track down the poll they were referring to, but a new one from RT Nielson research late last week shows Miller catching up after some significant spending on ads and a boost from the state’s former half-term governor. The Murkowski team’s own polling also shows Miller at her heels, despite outspending her challenger by almost 20-to-1.

Polls last month had Murkowski crushing Miller by 32 points. This latest shows Miller now at 35 percent to Murkowski’s 47 (though we should definitely note that it was very limited—just 243 people were polled—and it was commissioned by the Tea Party Express). And of course, Murkowski still has a healthy lead. But as we’ve learned with other big primaries this year where the tea party candidate unexpectedly surged (see: Sharron Angle in Nevada, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, and Mike Lee in Utah), it’s perhaps worth it to pay attention to these challengers from the right.

Miller has benefited from several high-profile endorsements in the past weeks. He’s got the support of Sarah Palin (and Todd, who has held a fundraiser for Miller), as well as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Palin wrote a lengthy Facebook screed in support of Miller on Friday, a last-minute push to raise $30,000 for the candidate. He’s also got the support of conservative media figures Mark Levin, Lars Larson, and Laura Ingraham.

The Miller camp paints Murkowski as too “liberal” for Alaska. Miller’s a relative unknown in the race, an attorney whose only other major bid for elected office was a failed run for the state house in 2004. A rundown of his basic positions: Government spending is bad, abortion should be illegal, health care legislation is unconstitutional, and so is cutting planet-warming emissions. According to Miller, the “science supporting manmade climate change is inconclusive” anyway. (Murkowski, on the other hand, has been one of only a small handful of Republicans who has acknowledged that global warming is a problem, though she’s also arguably one of the most effective politicians operating today to undermine action on that front.)

Perhaps the most intriguing element of this race is the revival of the Palin-Murkowski grudge match. Lisa Murkowski’s father, Frank, tapped her to fill the Senate seat he vacated in 2002 to become governor of the state. The senior Murkowski later lost his reelection bid to Palin in 2006. Murkowski has said there’s no “blood war” between the Murkowskis and the Palins, two of the most powerful political families in the state. But Palin, on the other hand, has been happy to throw punches. This week she recorded a robocall for Miller ripping Murkowski’s record (and erroneously claiming that Murkowski co-sponsored cap and trade), and her Facebook post called Murkowski “part of the big government problem in Washington.”

Murkowski is expected to win on Tuesday, and barring some sort of miraculous Miller surge, she probably will. What that says about Palin’s efficacy as a champion for candidates even in her own state might well prove the most interesting part of Tuesday’s primary.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate