As elections officials collect absentee ballots and lawyers descend on Alaska, insurgent Senate candidate Joe Miller has a message for the National Republican Senatorial Committee: Back off.
We’ve been closely following this Republican primary race, the results of which hang in the balance as Miller leads Sen. Lisa Murkowski by 1,668 votes and she’s got nothing to do but wait. But the NRSC sent a lawyer to help Murkowski should voting questions arise as absentee ballots are counted, and a new report surfaced today suggesting the state party was secretly supporting the senator despite a promise to stay neutral.
Miller issued a statement accusing Murkowski of trying to “pull an Al Franken” by lawyering up. He warned the NRSC to stay on the sidelines, saying the party committee is intended to elect Republicans, “not to pick favorites amongst those running, nor is it to send lawyers to try to manipulate the outcome.”“We are very aware that there may be some attempt here to skew the results. I hope that is not the case,” Miller said. “Alaskans won’t stand for any post-election foul play; the accurate vote of the people must stand.”
Miller already has been raising money by telling supporters a “recount is imminent.”
“We’re looking right now to make sure that the election that the votes are accounted for fairly without any type of game play that concerns us any time that somebody lawyers up and, you know, tries to pull an Al Franken if you will,” Miller said last night on Fox Business News (video below). “Lawyering up with a team of folks from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, it makes you scratch your head and ask what’s really going on here.”
Another head scratcher comes from conservative blogger Dan Riehl today: Alaska Republican Party officials allowed a Murkowski phone bank at their headquarters on election day.
“Grassroots Republicans I spoke to in Alaska view it as a betrayal of an open and fair primary in which the GOP establishment should not be taking sides,” Riehl wrote.
Shushannah Walshe reports for the Daily Beast that Miller’s lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, filed a protest with the Alaska Division of Elections asking that a Murkowski campaign absentee-ballot observer be “disbarred as a qualified observer in any region for the duration of this primary and general campaign year.”
Walshe, who also covered Palin in 2008 for Fox News and wrote a book about the vice presidential nominee, broke the story today that a top Murkowski supporter commissioned a poll testing how the senator would do if she ran in November as the Libertarian Party candidate.
Walshe reports that former state lawmaker Andrew Halcro has teamed up with other GOPers to pay for the poll, which will start this weekend and capture five days of results. The poll is being done independently of the Murkowski campaign, and it’s not clear if her team even knew about it before the story was published.
Libertarians have said they are open to the idea. But since so many tea partiers — who favor Miller — lean libertarian, it’s not clear if that would help Murkowski much in a general election.
State officials said today as many as 20,000 absentee ballots are outstanding. The Anchorage Daily News has a good breakdown of the counting process here.
Local reports still maintain Murkowski could win with a good showing in those absentees, which won’t be fully counted until Sept. 8. Miller said the outstanding military votes might tip in his favor since he’s a veteran.
But the tension between the “establishment” and the upstart who’s never held political office isn’t likely to subside either way. The NRSC, of course, says the party will support Miller if he’s the winner. But Miller may not want Sen. John Cornyn’s help — let alone any from the party.
He has criticized the RNC and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a Murkowski foe who is prominently backing Miller, said on Fox Business News yesterday that he is up against a party “machine.”
Miller is “a new face that will represent the will of the people up here,” Palin said.
Consider his close from the Fox Business interview: “I think [there is a] crisis of leadership in D.C. and we’re going to get infused with new blood that takes this nation in the correct direction, that people can surround, to get around and support, and I’m excited about it.”
Statements like those have led to speculation that Miller might not be a safe vote — not on policy issues, but for current leaders. As that thinking runs, if Miller wins the primary and then goes on to win the general election, and if he ends up with a few tea party-type comrades such as Rand Paul or Sharron Angle, they might just back someone like Sen. Jim DeMint for a leadership spot and give Cornyn the boot.
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