Why the candidate of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express is losing in Alaska.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Aug. 23 2010 5:54 PM

Mama Grizzly Man

Why the candidate of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express is losing in Alaska.

(Continued from Page 1)

Says Dave Stieren, a conservative talk-radio host in Anchorage and a player in one of Miller's biggest campaign dramas: "If I'm running Joe Miller, he's a military combat vet. He's a pro-life guy. He's a small government guy. He doesn't have a voting record or contributor record where union interests control him. This is your 98-mile-per-hour-fastball-throwing young star, and it seems that his talents and message kind of got lost."

The Miller campaign has also been plagued by setbacks and embarrassments of its own making. On Aug. 8, with the primary just more than two weeks away, then-campaign manager Paul Bauer went on Facebook and accused a University of Alaska College Republicans chapter of being Murkowski's "uneducated puppets" after discovering that the club had hosted a meet-and-greet for the senator. "We don't take too kindly to that for the work we do in school and outside of school," says Jeremiah Campbell, a University of Alaska senior and the College Republicans' communications director. The group never officially supported Murkowski and has a policy of not endorsing candidates for the primary.

The spat then became talk-radio fodder. Stieren asked aloud on his show who would be idiotic enough to lash out at young people who work for free on Republican campaigns, and Bauer called in to defend himself. The feud culminated in a barroom argument later that week, caught on videotape and (unsurprisingly) posted on YouTube, between Stieren and Bauer's wife in which she threatened to "bury you alive." Within 72 hours, Bauer was off Miller's campaign.

Advertisement

Between his formulaic messaging and constant diversions, Miller hasn't been able to drum up much support. In his hometown of Fairbanks, the mayor and the newspaper have endorsed Murkowski. So have industry groups like the Alaska Forestry Association and United Fishermen of Alaska, along with most of the state legislature. Murkowski has run a low-key and well-bankrolled campaign where she's avoided engaging Miller—not mentioning his name in her reaction to the Palin endorsement, even blowing off one of their few scheduled debates and sending a staffer in her stead.

As far as Miller's supporters go, the most-talked-about ones have been the guys who showed up to the 25th annual Bear Paw festival, a summer fair in greater Anchorage, with what appeared to be assault rifles. Then there are those nine people who showed up at a Tea Party Express-sponsored rally on Aug. 6 for Miller in Juneau, where they were outnumbered by reporters and operatives. And there are the die-hard Palin fans. "There's always going to be that 20 percent lemming group that are going to throw themselves off a cliff for Sarah Palin up here," says Stieren. "But you're not going to win with 20 percent."

Not surprisingly, Steve Wackowski, a campaign spokesman for Murkowski, agrees that backing from Palin and the Tea Party Express is more of a liability for Miller than anything else. "It turns Alaskans off when outside groups from the Lower 48 like this California Tea Party Express come out and try to tell Alaskans how to vote and what they should be doing," says Wackowski. "I'm from here; I grew up here. And whether it's extreme environmentalists telling us that we can't drill in ANWR or that we can't do predator control to manage our game stocks, I think that really rubs Alaskans the wrong way. On Tuesday, you're going to see evidence of that."

Despite the long odds, Miller's team is still feeling optimistic. On Friday Sarah Palin wrote yet another Facebook post extolling his commonsense conservative values, and campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto says internal polls show that the campaign is within one point of Murkowski. The race is "pretty much neck and neck," he says. On Tuesday, we'll find out exactly how close those necks are.

Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.