Sarah Palin's husband, Todd, sat amid the Alaskana of the Sourdough Mining Company restaurant in Anchorage and watched his friend, Joe Miller, tell potential campaign donors he's got U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski running scared.
"It's a competitive campaign," Miller said. "We know that Murkowski sees this as a competitive campaign, based upon the actions that she's taking. We've certainly seen how she's moving to the right."
Murkowski is the frontrunner, with more than $2 million in campaign cash and more Republican leaders in the state lining up to support her than Miller in the Aug. 24 party primary. But Miller's campaign is gaining increasing attention, in large part because of Sarah Palin. The ex-governor's endorsement of Miller caused the national Tea Party Express to take a hard look at the race, leading the group to commit to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to beat Murkowski, the 53-year-old former state legislator who has been a U.S. senator for eight years.
It remains to be seen how much Palin's help will count as Miller embarks on what has never before been a winning strategy for an Alaskan running for Congress. He's running on a platform of choking federal spending in a state that lives off dollars from Washington, D.C., a state that worshipped Ted Stevens for his talent in delivering it.
Miller has called for across-the-board cuts, phasing out government Medicare and Social Security, and getting rid of the federal Department of Education because it is not in the Constitution, leaving the function to the states. He's going well beyond positions that Palin advocated when she was running to be governor of the state and those she espoused as governor.
The Palins have declined interview requests to talk about Miller, although Palin called him a "true Commonsense Constitutional Conservative" on her Facebook page.
Miller maintains the alternative to his message is government insolvency and that his tea party views resonate even in a place like Bethel, where half the jobs are in government.
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