National Republicans Abandoning Joe Miller?

National Republicans are reportedly abandoning Joe Miller's Senate campaign at the last minute out of fear that only Lisa Murkowski can stop Alaska's Senate seat from falling into Democratic hands. That could have a serious impact down the road for relations between inside-the-beltway Republicans and the Tea Party.

ABC News report Jon Karl reports this morning that Republican insiders are bailing on Joe Miller’s campaign for the Senate in Alaska at the last minute:

A high-level GOP source tells me that party leaders have essentially given up on Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller and are now banking on a victory by write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski as the best bet for Republicans to keep the Alaska Senate seat.

Murkowski defied party leaders by running a write-in campaign after she lost the Republican primary last month. But with Miller’s campaign faltering, the source tells me that Republican leaders are now worried that Democrat Scott McAdams has a shot of winning and that Murkowski may be the only way to stop him.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for Murkowski. She was punished by party leaders last month — unceremoniously stripped of her position as ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and her role in Senate leadership — when she refused to bow out of the Senate race and endorse Miller. But she has consistently said she is still a Republican and will caucus with the Republican party if she wins.

The nightmare scenario for Republicans is that McAdams comes in second on Election Day, trailing “write-in candidate.” Those write-in votes won’t be counted unless there are more write-in votes than there are votes for any candidate on the ballot. Once the write-in votes are counted, however, some of them will inevitably be disqualified (illegible writing, wrong name, etc.). And a small number will be for candidates other than Murkowski. If enough are tossed out, second place McAdams would be the winner

Karl points to this ad from the NRSC as evidence that national Republicans are more concerned with stopping McAdams than boosting Miller:

As Karl notes, the ad principally attacks McAdams, doesn’t mention Murkowski at all, and only mentions Miller at the very end.

None of this is really surprising.

For one thing, Miller has had a bad two weeks thanks mostly to public relations mis-steps of his own, or his campaigns’, making and he has seemed to slip in the polls, while Murkowski has been holding her own. One poll, by Republican pollster Dittman Research, even has Murkowski leading Miller by ten points. The problem, of course, is that polling a write-in candidacy is inherently problematic so there’s no way of knowing how strong Murkowski’s support really is until you start counting the votes. That’s why the NRSC’s fear of a come-out-of-nowhere win by McAdams isn’t at all unrealistic; Miller and Murkowski could end up dividing the Republican leaning vote sufficiently that it would be enough for McAdams to win in a three-way race.

For another, Murkowski is a known quantity to Republicans in Washington. She’s already said that if she wins, she will caucus with the Senate GOP, and, despite the choruses of “RINO !” coming from Miller supporters, she has been a reliable GOP vote during her time in office. As the saying goes, better the devil you know than the one you don’t and, from the GOP perspective, better an imperfect Republican than a second Democratic Senator from Alaska.

Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, or whenever the votes get counted for good, this is only bound to increase the tension between Republicans in Washington and the grassroots “Tea Party” movement. If Miller wins, it’s already clear that he’s going to be part of the maverick “Tea Party” caucus that is likely to include people like Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, and Ron Johnston at the very least. If he loses, then his supporters will focus their anger on Republican insiders who they will blame for stabbing him in the back. Already, there are rumors that John Cornyn, the second-term Texan who heads the NRSC, will be subject to a primary challenge when he is up for re-election is 2014, for example. At the very least, a Miller loss would make the relationship between the national GOP and the Tea Party tense even while the two groups try to combine forces to run Congress, and set up for a Presidential campaign in 2012.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Bernieyeball says:

    “I support him 1000%.” Candidate George to that guy from Missouri.

  2. Brummagem Joe says:

    Doug the perils of political forecasting. I couldn’t but contrast this with your “Miller doesn’t have much to worry about from Murkowski.”

  3. Bernieyeball says:

    “I am behind Eagleton 1000%.”

  4. sookie says:

    twits… if not for the Tea Party they would not be on the come back road.

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    I guess we should just quit having primaries and let the national committees choose candidates. Yeah, that’ll work for everybody.

  6. JKB says:

    I guess we should just quit having primaries and let the national committees choose candidates.

    Well, that would make us more like the Europe the elites are always Jonesing for. Rule by useless Harvard graduates, yeah that’s the ticket.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    “Rule by useless Harvard graduates, yeah that’s the ticket.”

    Much better to be ruled by the likes of Sarah Palin or John Boehner…

  8. Barbara from Alaska says:

    I’ve seen the entire matter unfold in Alaska. Joe “the Grifter” Miller has shown himself to be a liar, fraud, and cheat and Alaskans could not be duped long enough to elect him as our US Senator. We already have a deficient high school graduate/GED recipient in Mark Begich and to continue our embarrassment with Joe Miller is more than most of us could bare.

    Joe Miller has shown himself to be the bad apple that poisons all with whom he has contact. There is no hope for the Grifter’s supporters, but thankfully the thinking, reasoning Alaska voters did the right thing.

    US Army character-affirming attributes are not for disposal after an officer takes off the uniform. Either Joe Miller did not absorb these fundamental values during his military service or voluntarily discarded them immediately thereafter. Either way, he’s a dishonorable person. He does things to benefit himself … only.

    Joe Miller took advantage of a fully-funded undergraduate program at USMA, appeared to go along with that institution’s Code of Ethics, but requested to terminate his military service obligation, only two years into it. He quit active duty when a better opportunity for him came along.

    After Joe moved to Alaska, his troubles escalated. When he fraudulently obtained an indigent hunting/fishing license, he claimed he was unaware of the one-year residency requirement. At the time he obtained the resident indigent license, he obtained a home mortgage loan for a South Anchorage property that he remodeled immediately to twice its original size. These two activities are mutually exclusive. But Joe benefited and sees no problem here.

    When Joe moved from a rental home in Tok, he demanded the return of his $500.00 deposit. He told the owner, who was recently widowed and grieving, that he’d sue her if she kept his money. Not wanting a lawsuit, but aware of the cost to restore her property, the widow returned the money with a note telling him she never wanted him to bother her again. When everything was complete, it took the owner one month to clean her rental property and $38,000.00 to restore it. But Joe was happy.

    His recent explanation for his high credit card balances is untrue. According to Tok residents, Joe was in significant credit card debt while he lived there. When he responded to an inquiring lady at a “Meet and Greet” at Wellspring Church, he explained his huge credit card debt as the product of initial, recent campaign expenses that he was forced to pay with a credit card.

    Alaskans have asked repeatedly about Joe’s DD-214 citing AR 635-120 for his unqualified resignation due to “misc reasons”. Following the Central Middle School Town Hall, a civilian worker who volunteered for Vietnam, asked Joe why he quit the service early. Joe said he “had a deal to get out after two years”. Realizing that the Army does not operate according to secret personnel deals, she asked for a better explanation. Joe’s campaign spokesperson, another West Point graduate, interrupted suggesting “maybe he got out on a hardship”. With this double “response”, the questioning ended and Joe raced to the nearest exit where he ran into the Alaska Dispatch editor who was arrested and thrown into hand cuffs. So Joe, what this about the “deal”, your hardship(s), and the serious disabilities he disclosed to a well-known Alaska blogger.

    During that Town Hall, Joe showed utter disrespect for state Senator Fred Dyson. On that occasion, Dyson mis-stated the facts when introducing to the assembled that Joe is the son-in-law of a former state legislator. Joe did not correct Dyson. Neither did Kathleen. And Joe’s parents also sat on their hands. When I asked Rex about this later, he said “it wasn’t my place” to say anything. Another former state Senator, who decided somebody had to say something, attempted to correct Dyson during the introduction, but Joe’s followers disallowed him the microphone.

    Despite insurance coverage supplied by Fairbanks North Star Borough, Joe gets medical care at the Anchorage VA. We also discovered that Joe broke borough regulations when he secretly used others’ computers, erased these computers’ caches, and wrongly erased many email job-related emails.

    According to Joe’s comments at the World Affairs Council luncheon, all of his military records are available at his campaign web site. This is untrue. The military records displayed there now have been selected to present him most favorably, but not truthfully. An additional overlapping Bronze Star for service was posted during the summer months, but now it’s gone. His final performance appraisal for his last five months of service, has never been available there.

    Joe Miller’s political campaign focuses on his Bronze Star and his accomplishments in a ground campaign that lasted 100 hours. One performance appraisal states he “destroyed an Iraqi squad” one week before General Swartzkopf announced that start of Dessert Storm ground operations. Did he jump the gun? He’s no different from over 26,000 other soldiers who participated in Dessert Storm and received the Bronze Star for service (certainly not for Valor). And I don’t see anything indicating he actually put his “life on the line”.