Joe Miller Has A Posse

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 18 2010 9:03 AM

Joe Miller Has A Posse

For much of the 2010 campaign, the Alaska Dispatch has been a source for muckraking about (mostly) the state's Republicans. On Sunday, site founder Tony Hopfinger got into a spat with GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller's security detail, and, well:

Hopfinger, who was holding a small video camera, said he was attempting to draw out a statement from Miller on why he was disciplined by the Fairbanks North Star Borough when Miller worked there as a part-time attorney. After Miller walked away, Hopfinger said, he was surrounded by Miller supporters and security guards and felt threatened, so he pushed one of them away.

... While Hopfinger was still in handcuffs, the guards attempted to prevent other reporters from talking to him and threatened them too with arrest for trespass. A Daily News reporter interviewed Hopfinger anyway. No other reporters were arrested, though a few shoving matches and chest bumps ensued as the guards attempted to cordon off Hopfinger and block photographs and videos from being taken of the bizarre school scene.

The Miller campaign released a written one-paragraph statement from Fuller, then followed with a statement titled, "Liberal Blogger 'Loses It' at Town Hall Meeting." In that statement, Miller accused Hopfinger of assaulting someone and of taking advantage of the meeting to "create a publicity stunt."

He said his personal security detail had to take action to detain "the irrational blogger."

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This is a strange story to read out of Alaska. First, an entourage of the size captured by the Anchorage Daily News's photographer isn't on every campaign; on the trail, I usually encounter a driver or two accompanying Senate candidates. Second, it's unusual for a security detail to go the extra step of handcuffing someone, especially if that someone isn't armed. Third, read Miller's statement: the campaign's strategy is to recast Hopfinger as a man "obsessed" with Miller, because he... writes about him and attends events. 
 
Republicans have turned their attention elsewhere on the Senate map, but the impression I get from Alaska sources is that Miller has made some of the mistakes Ned Lamont did after that Democrat's 2006 primary win over Joe Lieberman. Lamont, an instant star, rested on his laurels and Lieberman set up a serious campaign that started taking Lamont apart. In Alaska this year, Miller won an upset over Lisa Murkowski largely with the support of the Tea Party Express and the endorsement of Sarah Palin. Then the TPE and Palin turned their sights to Delaware and other states, and Murkowski set up a credible write-in campaign as Democrat Scott McAdams raised money and ran ads. The result? A September Rasmussen poll gave Miller a 42-27-25 lead over Murkowski and McAdams, respectively. An October 13 Rasmussen poll had Miller tumbling 7 points and Murkowski gaining seven: the new breakdown was 35-34-27. As impossible as Alaska is to poll, Miller has obviously lost his advantage thanks in part to distracting stories and a defensive response to those stories.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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