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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Miller Wins in Alaska

Joe Miller appears to be squeezing out a narrow victory in Alaska.

Republicans are fired up and ready to go, and that's producing some surprising election results, including the possible defeat of Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, who would be the third sitting U.S. Senator ousted by their own party this year.

The Alaska story, though, could shape up to be the most interesting. Miller leads Murkowski, a second-generation senator, by three percent. But the results are still trickling in - more than 15 percent of the ballots have not been counted, including the many absentee ballots from Alaskans who work, serve or attend school elsewhere. If Murkowski goes down it will be the biggest pelt yet for Sarah Palin's hunting party. She backed Miller (as did the Tea Party Express with a late $500,000 ad buy) and can claim lots of credit for his success. If Miller prevails, he should have a clear shot at the Senate against Democratic nominee, Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams. Miller is a conservative, West Point graduate, Yale-educated lawyer and former judge. While Alaskans overall may have some reservations about Palin after she abruptly left the governorship, this should be a very Republican year in a very Republican state.

98% of the precincts have come in and Miller continues to lead. The Tea Parties, of which Miller is a favorite, have flexed their muscles in the primaries.

That said their future goes through three states: Nevada, Florida and Colorado. The Tea Parties have shown incredible muscle in primaries. Furthermore, it's a movement that is here to stay. It has spawned the likes of Nikki Haley, Scott Brown and Rand Paul.

The key for this movement will be whether or not their candidates can win elections in a cross section of states that represent the country as a whole. That's where Florida, Colorado and and Nevada come in. No one is a bigger Tea Party favorite than Marco Rubio. There's no more purple state than Florida. So, a victory by Rubio in Florida legitimizes the Tea Parties.

It means that Tea Parties don't have to settle for any Republican candidate. Meanwhile, a loss means the tea parties took a solid Republican seat and gave it to another party.

There are similar dynamics in Nevada and Colorado. In both states, a tea party candidate came out of nowhere to defeat the establishment candidate. In both states, the seat was likely Republican. Will the tea party candidate hold on? If so, a real political force is born. If not, it could be the sort of force that does more harm than good electorally.

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