Guests: The Alaska Senate Candidates

By Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel Maddow Show - October 26, 2010

Guests: Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Scott McAdams, Joe Miller, Shannyn Moore, Vic Fischer

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  I am so excited that we finally persuaded Joe Miller to be on this show.  I cannot believe it.

OLBERMANN:  Sharing the sentiment of all of us back here in New York.

MADDOW:  I hear you and I hear the doubt in your voice beneath it. 

Thank you, Keith.  Appreciate it.

OLBERMANN:  No, no.  No, no.  No, no, no.  I"�m just getting my popcorn.

MADDOW:  We are live at the Tap Root in Anchorage, Alaska.


MADDOW:  With many, many, many of our closest friends.

I have to tell you, the people up here are as nice and as fired up about this election as the days are short and the mountains are beautiful.

Here"�s the thing about coming to Alaska to cover a political race. 

When you fly all the way up to what is often described as the far upper

left corner of the country, when you fly to Seattle, and then you realize

that your connecting flight to Anchorage is another three hours up and left

you think, oh, wow, Alaska is really far from the rest of the country. 

But then you land here and you think"”oh, wow, the rest of the country is really far from here.

Alaska is different and proudly so.  It is not just geographically noncontiguous with the rest of the country.  It is politically noncontiguous.


MADDOW:  And since control of the United States Senate could hinge on what"�s going to happen in this Senate race here, it is worth remembering that in 1994, the first midterms of Bill Clinton"�s presidency, when everything in the country went from blue to red, Alaska went from red to blue, picking a Democrat to replace their Republican governor.


MADDOW:  In the last two elections, which were Democratic tidal waves, the troubled Alaska Congressman Don Young held on as a Republican when everyone thought his seat would go Democratic.  Alaska does also own thing.

After a tide of outside money, mostly from California, propelled the candidacy of a Tea Party conservative challenger, Alaska"�s incumbent Republican senator lost her primary this year.  Instead of endorsing the man who beat her, she decided to run a write-in campaign against him.

Now, if viewed from the lower 48, that is nuts.  No one has won a write-in campaign for the United States Senate since Strom Thurmond did it in 1954.  No one has ever won a write-in campaign for any statewide office in Alaska ever.

From a distance, what Lisa Murkowski is trying to do is nuts and it"�s impossible.  But from up here, I don"�t know if it"�s still nuts, I don"�t know if it"�s impossible, but it is definitely a different perspective.

Lisa Murkowski has been getting primary from the right.  She has been fighting off right wing challengers from her own party essentially the whole time she has been in office.  As a state legislator in the late "�90s, she was hit from the right for trying to balance the budget by means that included tax increases.  In 2002, she barely survived a right-wing primary challenger named Nancy Dahlstrom.

In 2004, running to defend United States Senate seat her dad gave her, she got primaried from the right again.  A guy named Mike Miller.  Not Joe Miller.  He went after her on abortion and gun rights and taxes and she trounced him.

So, Focus on the Family and Jim DeMint and the hardcore anti-abortion groups and the Tea Party and Sarah Palin"”they are all out for Lisa Murkowski"�s blood from the right, and Joe Miller"�s candidacy is the latest manifestation of that.

But Murkowski has dealt with these types of challenges essentially her whole career and she"�s always won.  So, now, she thinks she can win again.  And this is great overlooked point of this whole year for this whole country about the Tea Party and the conservative insurgency and the civil war on the Republican side, this is the thing that nobody is getting.  It"�s not new.

The conservative movement purifies Republican Party.  It is their constant goal.  They litmus-test them.  Sometimes, they do it a lot.  Sometimes, they do it a little.  And when the Republican Party is at its weakest, the Republican Party is most susceptible to what the conservative movement is always trying to do to them.  This is not new.


MADDOW:  Preparing to talk to you today, I felt like I got"”I felt like I had been looking through a telescope and then I turned the telescope around the other way.

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