Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is telling pundits to stifle their premature predictions of her political demise until all the votes have been counted in her tight race against tea party favorite Joe Miller for the GOP Senate nomination.
“It ain’t over yet, folks," she told supporters at her Anchorage campaign headquarters, according to the Anchorage Daily News. "There are thousands of absentees that are yet to come in.”
Murkowski is right. Although Miller holds a 1,960 vote advantage with 98 percent of Alaska's precincts recorded, at least 7,600 absentee ballots won't be tallied until Aug. 31, sources say.
It is quite possible the absentee votes will trend more toward Murkowski, for two reasons. First, many of them were cast before the last-minute surge for Miller. Second, the Murkowski campaign specifically targeted supporters who requested absentee ballots, asking them to mail the ballots back in. It is not known whether Miller undertook similar efforts.
The cliffhanger result seemed to blindside Murkowski. Polls had varied widely in the run-up to the primary election Tuesday, but mostly showed her holding a commanding lead.
Although Miller's endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has drawn widespread attention, other factors may have played an equally important role in the razor-thin result.
The grass-roots Tea Party Express organization, which endorsed Miller, spent heavily on advertising in the campaign's closing days.
Also, Miller is believed to have benefited from the presence of Ballot Measure 2 on the ballot. The proposition would require that parents be notified if their children ages 17 and younger get an abortion. Both Murkowski and Miller supported the measure, but many pundits believe the presence of that item on the ballot motivated more conservatives to vote, which benefited Miller.
"The Prop. 2 supporters were our supporters, largely . . . Frankly, I think the pro-life vote was important," said Miller, according to the Daily News.
Murkowski acknowledged that Miller's strength took her by surprise, telling the newspaper: "Our [poll] numbers all throughout have not only been strong but really overwhelmingly strong. And clearly there was a shift, whether it was kind of the anti-incumbency feedback that you get in the Lower 48, I don’t know yet.
"I haven’t spent that much time dwelling on it," she added, "because it’s been just a relatively few hours since the polls closed and we started seeing the results . . . I’m sure there will be much that is written on who is to blame and who is to credit.”
The Democratic nominee, Sitka mayor Scott McAdams of Sitka, is not well known in Democratic circles. Salon.com reports he had raised less than $10,000 for his campaign as of June.
There's already talk that Murkowski might mount a third-party or write-in candidacy if Miller prevails. But Murkowski said it is "way, way, way too premature to even be talking about that.”
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