So, in Alaska politics, is it all about the money?
Would Joe Miller have beaten Lisa Murkowski if they ran against each other in a general election? Most people say no. The ability of this particular primary to call out the Tea Party faithful, by way of a $600,000 media blitz funded by the Tea Party Express demonizing Murkowski, and a ballot initiative on parental notification for abortion, called out the far right in droves, and showed us first hand what happens when "Get Out the Vote" meets apathy.
While Murkowski decides whether or not to run a write-in campaign, the national endorsements are flooding in for Joe Miller. Before Murkowski's final decision has been announced, senators like John McCain, Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn and Jim DeMint are flocking to support her opponent. Murkowski, the current Republican senator who's got all kinds of clout in D.C., hasn't even said she's out of the race yet. And yet, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is rearing its head and winging its way to the Last Frontier.
According to Politico's "Morning Score" newsletter, National Republican Senatorial Committee senior adviser Terry Nelson is heading North to huddle up with Joe Miller, the Tea Partyer who won the recent Alaska GOP senatorial primary. Nelson will reportedly bring promises of more than $200,000 the committee plans to pour into the race.
Part of Nelson's mission of course is to ward off incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who lost the primary to Miller but keeps grumbling about a possible independent bid for the seat. At the moment Miller is the overwhelming favorite to win the seat, but if Murkowski were to run as a third party candidate, it could throw the seat into some doubt.
But this is the bottom line: Alaska should not be a state which is on the NRSC's radar screen at all. The hundreds of thousands of dollars and senior level attention should be available to actually competitive races in places like Nevada, Kentucky, Colorado, and a half-dozen other highly competitive battlegrounds.
$200,000 is big money, especially in an Alaska election where a dollar goes a lot farther than it does in large media markets. It's possible that before this is over, the candidate that everyone says is a sure thing will have had to run a multimillion dollar campaign against a potential write-in candidate whose last name is M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I, and the relatively unknown Democrat Scott McAdams. But, Alaska is supposed to be such a Republican state. All you've got to do is find a guy who's got an R next to his name, put him in a plaid shirt, have him say he hates the federal government, and he'll trounce anybody, right?
What the national media seems to be missing is the fact that what Alaska wanted more than anything, just four short years ago, was a small town mayor from humble roots who was ready to run a grassroots campaign while thumbing her nose at the establishment; who told Alaskans there would be no more "business as usual"; that Alaskans came first; that she was just regular folks; whose campaign slogan was "Take a Stand"; whose family had an interest in commercial fishing; and who said we don't care how they do it Outside... this is Alaska.
Sarah Palin's story, meet Scott McAdams' story. OK, minus the drama, the ego, the narcissism, the instability and the lack of intellectual curiosity. And the red Naughty Monkey pumps.
But back to Joe Miller.
His experience? The only public office he's ever run for was State House, and he lost. To a Democrat. In Fairbanks.
His platform? Tell the federal government to keep their stinkin' money (also known as one third of the Alaskan economy).
His primary campaign strategy? Distorting the record of and disrespecting a well-loved sitting Senator who by all reasonable assumptions would have trounced him in a head-to-head general election and making her many loyal supporters hate his guts.
His past history with the party? He tried to overthrow the Alaska Republican Party two years ago by staging a coup and ousting Party Chair Randy Ruedrich. He failed.
And don't forget that a recent Rasmussen poll, had Scott McAdams -- a relatively unknown Democrat -- trailing the half-million dollar Tea Party darlin' Joe Miller by only six points -- 50/44.
Miller is viewed Very Favorably by 25% and Very Unfavorably by 33%.
Thirteen percent (13%) regard McAdams Very Favorably, while 18% view him Very Unfavorably
That's why the money is flowing in. The Republicans on a national level would have loved this to be an easy race. They all could have focused their time, and money elsewhere. But they're ready to pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into this campaign, and throw a sitting senator who still may run under the bus by backing her extremist rival. Why? Because they know they could lose, which would not only mean two Democratic Senators in Washington, D.C., but egg all over the face of Sarah Palin, their golden goose on the fundraising circuit.
The biggest obstacle for Scott McAdams right now is money. The grassroots is rising, but time is short. He hasn't had much support or infrastructure because everyone just knew Lisa would win the primary and go back to Washington. Surprise!
McAdams' mission now is to quickly let voters know where he stands on the issues, and reassure them that he's a strong candidate. He's raising money hand over fist from the base, and from terrified moderates in Alaska, and on Act Blue. But, will the big bucks come from the DSCC or elsewhere? Are they asking themselves why the Republicans are throwing money at this as fast as they can? They ought to be. Will Alaskans loosen up the purse strings and make up for it if the outside money doesn't come? Time will tell, and there isn't much of it to spare.
So, why does U.S. News & World Report say that the NRSC shouldn't be interested in Alaska? And why do the number crunchers say that Miller is a shoo-in? Because they don't know all this. They think that Alaska is as easy to predict as everywhere else. Guess what happened the last time everyone predicted what would happen? Joe Miller beat Lisa Murkowski. And the time before that? Sarah Palin beat former Governor Tony Knowles. And Mark Begich beat Ted Stevens. And if the polls had been right, we'd have Congressman Ethan Berkowitz (D) in Washington, D.C., and Don Young (R) would be off in hip-waders, standing in some river trying to catch one of the last salmon of the season, and enjoying the second year of his retirement.
Think you've got Alaska all figured out? Think again.
Follow Jeanne Devon ("AKMuckraker") on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Mudflats