Scott McAdams

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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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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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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An Alaska Three Way

What will happen in Alaska? I think that the early handicapping of the Alaska Senate race, which features primary winner Joe Miller, incumbent Senator/primary loser/write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski, and Democratic nominee Scott McAdams -- is not sufficiently taking into account the inherent potential for random and unstable results.

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Alaska is a very Republican state, and 2010 is a very Republican year, but Alaska Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller is a very unpopular guy: Miller leads Scott McAdams 47-39. McAdams is counteracting several of the trends causing Democrats trouble across the country this year. He's running even with independents at 42% and he's benefiting from a more unified party, getting 81% of the Democratic vote while just 73% of Republicans are committed to Miller.

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Last month I touted the possibility that Tea Party candidate Joe Miller could upset Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska Republican Senate primary, possibly turning another safe GOP seat into a race. I think I subsequently concluded that it wasn't going to happen. But now it looks like it's happening. "Edward Teller" at Open Left has been very excited about the candidacy of Democratic nominee Scott McAdams. Any chance of an upset here? If so, it's just incredible to me that the GOP establishment keeps letting its base put safe seats in play.

Edward Teller of FireDogLake suggests a right-wing primary challenge could topple Lisa Murkowski in Alaska and nominate a Tea Party candidate instead: U.S. Senate candidate, Sitka Alaska’s progressive mayor, Democrat Scott McAdams, trails U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski in polls. But Sarah Palin has endorsed Murkowski’s challenger, Tea Party Express favorite Joe Miller in the August 24th GOP primary.

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