Murkowski Concedes to Miller in Alaska Sen. Race

Murkowski Concedes to Miller in Alaska Sen. Race

By Scott Conroy - August 31, 2010

After a week of uncertainty that saw both campaigns engage in back-and-forth accusations and increasingly heated rhetoric, Republican Lisa Murkowski on Tuesday night conceded the Alaska GOP Senate primary race to Fairbanks attorney and Sarah Palin-backed Tea Party stalwart Joe Miller.

"Based on where we are right now, I don't see a scenario where the primary will turn out in my favor," Murkowski said in a speech at her Anchorage campaign headquarters on Tuesday night.

Murkowski said that she called Miller to concede before making her statement. She did not take questions from reporters.

Murkowski had held out hope that she could make up the deficit of 1,668 votes that she faced after all precincts reported in the Aug. 24 primary, but she gained little ground after an initial tally of absentee and questioned ballots by the Alaska Board of Elections on Tuesday.

"After my term is finished, I'm coming home," Murkowski said to resounding cheers from her campaign staff and supporters, according to The Daily Beast's Shushannah Walshe, who broke the news that Murkowski was bowing out a few minutes before she took the stage in Anchorage.

Miller's victory is perhaps the most surprising result of the 2010 election cycle thus far and marks a significant political victory for Palin, whose support for Miller proved critical as he overcame a large financial disadvantage and wide deficit in early polling.

Murkowski becomes the third incumbent senator to fall before even getting to the general election in November, after Pennsylvania Democrat Arlen Specter and Utah Republican Bob Bennett lost their primary races this spring.

Intermediaries acting in support of the Murkowski campaign had reached out to the Alaska Libertarian Party earlier this week to explore whether a deal could be struck to allow Murkowski to appear on that party's ticket in the general election, but the Libertarians rejected that idea on Sunday.

Murkowski's only remaining option to stay in the race would have been to launch a write-in campaign for the general election.

Murkowski, who has served in the Senate since her father Frank appointed her to the seat he vacated in 2002, had widely been considered the most popular statewide politician in Alaska.

Her defeat at the hands of an insurgent candidate who had widely been written off by the national media and political observers in Alaska demonstrates that Palin's support among Republicans in the state remains stronger than previously thought.

In the general election, Miller will face Democrat Scott McAdams, the mayor of Sitka. McAdams is largely unknown statewide and won his party's primary only after better-known candidates rebuffed attempts by Alaska Democratic officials to encourage them to run.

Still, a survey released on Sunday by the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling showed McAdams within striking range, as he trailed Miller 47 percent to 39 percent in a head to head matchup among 1,306 likely voters in Alaska.

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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