It's possible, perhaps even probable, that Republican Joe Miller could run away with one of Alaska's Senate seats in November, but with the Republican side of the ballot in open rebellion, that's no longer a foregone conclusion.
What's really interesting isn't that the Democrats could pick up a second Senate seat in solidly Republican Alaska. No, what could be most remarkable is if incumbent GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski beats the odds and comes back to the Senate next year. Confused? If you think this sounds more like reality TV series than a political campaign don't worry, it actually gets more complicated, including a cameo role from Alaska's former half-term governor, Sarah Palin.
Murkowski was upended last month in Alaska's Republican primary by Miller, who until weeks ago wasn't even well-known in his home state. Miller defeated Murkowski in no small measure due to not only the backing of the tea party movement, but also to a personal endorsement from "mama grizzly" Palin herself.
That Palin would support Miller over Murkowski isn't surprising, given the longstanding bad blood between Palin and the Murkowski family.
Murkowski first entered the Senate in 2002, appointed to the job by her father, Frank. Frank Murkowski had held the Senate seat himself, but that year had been elected governor. He named his daughter to take his old job, but four years later, Palin defeated the elder Murkowski in the GOP primary for governor.
Fast forward to this year. The younger Murkowski didn't take Miller's challenge seriously enough until it was too late. Although Lisa Murkowski has compiled a mainstream conservative voting record, going so far as unsuccessfully trying earlier this year to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from using it authority to regulate greenhouse gases, Miller relentlessly attacked her as a "liberal." Murkowski lost her nomination, but she didn't give up, deciding instead to mount a last-minute write-in campaign to remain Alaska's senior senator.
The mayor of Sitka, Alaska, Democrat Scott McAdams was hardly better known than Miller had been. Given that Alaskans overwhelmingly vote Republicans, McAdams had been little more than token opposition. But with conservatives split between Miller and Murkowski, he now has a real chance of joining fellow Alaska Democrat Mark Begich in the Senate. A recent Harris poll backs up that possibility.