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.

Joe Miller and Sarah Palin. Click image to expand.
Joe Miller and Sarah Palin

UNALASKA, Alaska—On Tuesday, in her home state, Sarah Palin's favorite will probably get trounced. Joe Miller is widely expected to lose by a large margin to incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary—an embarrassing defeat for the former governor, who has endorsed Miller, but also to Miller's other major backer, the Tea Party Express.

Miller was a virtual unknown when he announced his Senate candidacy in April. But his big political debut came in June when both Palin and the Tea Party Express endorsed him. Miller sounds like he came out of some kind of Tea Party laboratory, with degrees from West Point and the University of Alaska, a Bronze Star from fighting in the Gulf War, and "correct" positions on guns, abortion, God, and big government (for, against, for, and against, respectively). Miller even has the right look: With a long, lean face, and stubble closer to 10 o'clock than 5, he could almost pass for Chuck Norris.

Unfortunately for him, not even Chuck Norris in his most bad-ass role—which is, of course, Chuck Norris in real life—could rescue the Miller campaign. Always a long shot, Miller lags behind Murkowski, the heir to one of Alaska's political dynasties, by double digits.

Advertisement

So Tuesday is likely to be a disappointment to Palin and the Tea Party Express, which has spent more than $400,000 since June on radio and television ads attacking Murkowski. Fresh off its Nevada primary victory with Sharron Angle, the Tea Party Express was looking for both an appealing challenger and a sufficiently complacent incumbent. Murkowksi fit the role in part because of her record with earmarks and her reputation for occasionally working with Democrats. "We just felt that Joe Miller basically lines up better with Alaskan voters and the conservative kind of frontier feeling of Alaska," says Tea Party Express political director Bryan Shroyer.

Many Alaskans don't exactly feel that way. In part because Alaska has weathered the recession better than most states and because even conservative Republicans realize the importance of federal funding in the state, "I don't think the Tea Party movement has much currency in Alaska," says Ivan Moore, an independent pollster based in Anchorage. Moore's poll in July showed Miller down by 32 points, and other polls have come up with similar numbers. "From the very beginning, he has positioned himself so far to the right of the ideological spectrum and attached himself to the Tea Party movement, which even in Alaska is perceived as being a pretty extreme right organization," Moore says.

And Palin's endorsement hasn't helped, Moore adds. According to a Dittman Research poll conducted in April, 52 percent of Alaskans hold a negative opinion of Palin. "When someone with those kinds of numbers endorses someone for public office, believe me, the effect is on the whole negative," says Moore.

Despite this Tea Party skepticism in Alaska, the Miller campaign has stayed mostly with a generic Tea Party script. Miller rails against earmarks, a complaint usually made by people outside of Alaska. His hard-line immigration plan comes straight from Arizona, with no amnesty and limited birthright citizenship. His campaign has repeatedly made statements criticizing Murkowski for not doing enough to repeal health care reform, although she voted against it. He has talked about core constitutional values, but nothing particularly substantive about the state's oil, gas, and fishing industries.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

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

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

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

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 19 2014 6:22 PM Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  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.