Joe Miller

Mitt Romney’s coming off quite a good week and a half. Last month’s depressing job numbers bolstered his desired narrative about being the man most suited to save the economy, his opponents have largely (and inexplicably) shied away from taking potshots at his Massachusetts health care bill, and he looked far and away the most presidential of all the candidates in Monday’s GOP debate. Yet after talking to conservative activists over the past week, I’m by no means convinced that he is in the clear.

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Do the surprise victories of Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell in the 2010 Senate Republican primaries mean that seemingly fringe candidates like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, or even Ten Commandments judge Roy Moore have a chance? That’s what many pundits have been saying.

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[Guest post by James Downie:] Like Jon, I have a hard time connecting right-wing rhetoric to the shooting in Tucson. Yes, the half-term governor of Alaska and Murdoch’s propaganda machine have contributed more than the left to a “climate of hate.” But to tie that climate to Loughner, one has to resort to assumptions, without a direct connection, which have allowed conservatives room to claim innocence.

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With all the hullabaloo surrounding Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell and Joe Miller during the midterms, it was easy to lose track of some equally conservative, but less flamboyant, candidates. And it seems safe to say that no Tea Partier had more success while garnering less national attention than Mike Lee. While running for Senate, the 39-year-old Utah Republican proposed dismantling the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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While it has yet to be determined whether Alaskans can spell, they certainly can fill in the oval. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski seems to have held onto her seat through her insurgent campaign, with write-ins making up 41 percent of the vote. Tea Party candidate and official GOP nominee Joe Miller received 34 percent, with Democrat Scott McAdams bringing in 24 percent. Now begins the actual counting of the write-in, absentee, and questioned ballots, and—potentially—legal challenges from the Miller camp. It’ll be three weeks before there’s an official result.

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The polls just closed in Alaska, but before they did, Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller managed to sneak in one last dig at Murkowski and the media. Over the past few days, he's been blasting media outlets for colluding against him: Accusing the Murkowski camp of successfully intimidating radio outlets into pulling Miller ads; lumping that incident in with the removal of a right-wing radio host who had urged Miller supporters to sign up as write-ins to make Murkowski’s name harder to find on candidate list; and accusing an Anchorage CBS affiliate of fabricating stories after receiving a

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It's still early in the day in here in Alaska, where voters are just heading to the polls. But all week it has been clear that Democratic Senate candidate Scott McAdams is in a bind. “The most disappointing part of this race is that people, instead of voting the issues, are actually voting their fears,” says McAdams's spokesperson, Heather Handyside.

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Anchorage, Alaska—It’s the Saturday afternoon before Election Day, and El Tango, an Argentine restaurant in midtown Anchorage, is packed for a campaign event. About 50 people, mostly women, are bustling around and chatting about immigration reform, education, and, occasionally, how extreme the Tea Party movement is. One person sits in the back of the room reading about the foreclosure crisis. The attendees are from numerous ethnic groups; everything from Spanish to Somali is being spoken.

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Over the weekend, leading Republicans have expressed concern over Tea Party favorite Joe Miller's collapse in Alaska, even going so far as to express tacit support for Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign to stave off a win by Democrat Scott McAdamas. But now in the latest poll, Miller is ahead, 37-30-30. What's crazy is that this is happening despite Miller's utter rejection by the electorate, and despite McAdams being the most popular candidate of the three by far: Miller is winning despite having the worst personal favorability numbers of the three candidates.

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The latest poll from Alaska: Write In Candidate 34Joe Miller (R) 23Scott McAdams (D) 29 Joe Miller, according to this poll, has a favorability rating of 26/68. He's imploding under the weight of -- scandals? Radical positions? A scary beard? I don't know. What makes it all so dynamic is that the fluidity of the race itself has feedback effects. If Democrats think that Miller is a goner, do they switch from tactically supporting Murkowski to voting for McAdams? Does Murkowski have to veer left to prevent that? Would that, in turn, open her up to a Miller comeback?

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