The Ice Curtain

Alaska’s cold war heads to a boiling finish.

The 2.4 miles that separate the island of Big Diomede and Little Diomede use to be among the most tension-filled in not only Alaska but the world. With Big Diomede part of Russian territory and Little Diomede part of the United States, the small space between Bering Strait islands was called the “Ice Curtain” and one of the frigid locations of the Cold War.

In the wake of Tuesday’s Senate primary, the Diomede Islands may need a new nickname.

The Murkowski/Palin spat, always tense since Palin’s upset victory over then-Governor Frank Murkowski in the 2006 Republican primary, didn’t seem like it could develop into any more of a blood feud short of Lisa Murkowski planting a Fredoesque kiss on the former VP nominee. But despite holding a nearly $1.6 million cash on hand advantage and a seemingly insurmountable polling lead, Sen. Lisa Murkowski has seen herself driven from the Republican nomination, possibly Washington, and probably the GOP. In the process, what was suppose to be a campaign as desolate in terms of interest as Alaska’s frozen tundra has turned into the punditry’s race du jour.

The Palin proxy for this would-be Alaskan dynastic rematch, Joe Miller, has already won the battle of expectations. The closet any poll got to Tuesday’s actual result was an Anchorage Daily News poll that still put the Tea Party favorite 11 points behind. And Miller could still lose as thousands of absentee ballots are left to be counted, to say nothing of a likely recount – which the NRSC appears already to be planning for as it sends lawyers north for Murkowski.

Despite such advantages of incumbency, the math remains firmly in Miller’s favor:

5801 absentee ballots were mailed out to Alaskans requesting the Republican absentee ballot….

In order to win the Republican Senate primary a candidate must have at least 49,094 votes (50% plus 1).

Joe Miller currently has 47,027 votes. He needs 2067 out of the available 5801 (36%) possible absentee votes to win.

Lisa Murkowski currently has 45359 votes. She needs 3735 out of the available 5801 (64%) possible absentee votes to win.

The math could look much better – if Murkowski ran as a third-party candidate. Even as the NRSC attempts to salvage Murkowski’s primary campaign, Murkowski is at least privately flirting with continuing her re-election effort under another party’s banner. This isn’t exactly a Joe Lieberman scenario. While Lieberman availed himself of Connecticut’s odd ballot access laws to file as an independent merely days after losing the Democrat primary, Murkowski would have to convince another party’s nominee to step aside and be nominated in their place.

The precedent has already been set in Alaskan political history. Former Republican Governor Wally Hickel lost the 1990 primary only to win the general election as the Alaskan Independence Party’s candidate. Unfortunately for Murkowski, the precedent isn’t quite precise for her. Hickel, a Governor in the 1960s and Secretary of the Interior under Nixon, was most certainly the more conservative candidate in his 1990 primary defeat. In contrast, Murkowski’s abortion record and last minute commentary in opposition to repealing Obamacare (see below) put her firmly in the moderate camp and squarely at odds with Alaskan conservatives.

If Murkowski does make a third-party bid, the welcome mat has already been extended by the state’s Libertarian Party. While ideologically speaking Murkowski and the Libertarians have about as much in common as Herve Villechaize and Manute Bol, a marriage of political convenience would spare Murkowski the baggage of the secessionist AIP (although it didn’t stop Hickel) and give the Libertarians something as unbelievable as a virgin in a whorehouse – a victory.

Lacking money, name ID with average Alaskan voters, and probably a general election campaign infrastructure, Joe Miller would need an even greater infusion of aid from the Tea Party Express than the $500,000 they spent. With Democrat Scott McAdams reporting only $4,000 cash on hand at the beginning of the month, Murkowski could easily pull Democratic voters into her camp – especially as both sides share the goal of rebuking Sarah Palin. No, Murkowski isn’t likely to pull an Arlen Specter and join the Democrat’s caucus (her 70% lifetime ACU rating is one reason), but she could turn a general election into a two-way race for all intents and purposes.

There’s little doubt that the Senate could benefit from more average Joe Millers than another Murkowski. Unfortunately, Murkowski it seems want to return to Washington no matter how many bridges she burns in the process. One can only hope that if Murkowski does cross party lines, it’s a bridge to nowhere.

7 thoughts on “The Ice Curtain

  1. A few thoughts from a former Alaskan and somebody who has been watching Alaskan politics for years.

    1. Lisa Murkowski is a stone cold Alaskan Princess bitch and will do anything to stay in the Senate seat she feels is hers by birth right. As mentioned, switching parties is no big deal in Alaska. Hickel did it and then immediately switched back after the election.

    2. Joe Miller, despite the apparent primary victory, is a weak candidate. Alaskans like to portray themselves as fiercely independent, but they suck on the government tit more than any other state. Miller wants to end all that, including ending social security, medicare, and Medicare. This won’t go over well with people who are used to getting yearly state dividend checks.

    3. Palin’s influence in this is dubious. Her approval ratings have plummeted in Alaska since her resignation. Alaskan friends of mine who used to be her strongest supporters, can’t stand her any more.

    4. Democrats hold one of Alaska’s senate seats, and could easily win the second if they play this right. Alaska isn’t a solidly red state. The right Democrat can win state wide elections (Tony Knowles).

  2. Master;

    In my opinion, Palin’s stated motives for resigning; to save the State the money that would have been spent responding to a variety of lefty attacks, seemed honorable. Quite frankly, had I been in her position, I may have taken the same path. One would think that, if this was indeed true, the action would have played well with the rank and file taxpayer. Since you have followed her and Alaska politics, what are your thoughts?

  3. Boss,

    The state wasn’t paying the costs of the bogus lawsuits, those costs were coming out of her own pocket, or by her defense fund, although she had to return all that money in the end.

    The perception that I get from discussions with numerous Alaskans is that she quit so that she could cash in on her celebrity. I’ve admired Palin since she beat Frank Murkowski in the primary, but that admiration waned when she resigned. It’s funny though, I never considered her all that conservative in her actions as governor. She raised fees on oil companies so that she could increase the state dividend check. This was the heart of her popularity in AK prior to her stint as VP candidate.

  4. BTW boss.

    There are no state tax payers in AK. There is no state sales tax or state income tax. Every year residents, adult and children, receive a check from the state. In 2009 this was about $1300 per person. In 2008 Palin added an additional $1200 to the PFD check to offset increased energy costs.

  5. Master;

    I actually knew that there were no sales or income taxes there. Just forgot.

    I lived in TX for a number of years where we had no state income tax, but sales taxes and high property taxes.

    Like her or hate her, she does get the moonbats airborne, doesn’t she? I think that’s the part that I like most about her. Mention her name around liberals and watch them go into convulsions!

  6. It is pretty funny. I loved her speech at the GOP convention, and her debate with Biden.

    On the other hand, the focus on her family by the media and other detractors was disgusting.

    Back to the topic: I hope Murkowski bows out of this gracefully (if she loses).

  7. Pingback: Shot in the Dark » Blog Archive » Cold Affront

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