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Murkowski Gains In Alaska Count, But Will It Be Enough To Beat Miller?

Aug 31, 2010

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Today is the day when Alaska started counting the absentee and provisional ballots in the Republican Senate primary between Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent, and Joe Miller, the challenger.  When the dust had settled last Tuesday, Miller had a lead of 1,668 votes.

Here it is a week later, and it still stands out as one of the truly stunning upsets of 2010, no matter who ends up winning.

Alaska Public Radio is reporting that, by mid-morning, the state Division of Elections had counted 2,451 votes, mostly from Anchorage, which is thought to be Murkowski country, and Miller's lead had fallen to 1,325 votes.

Murkowski's gain of 343 votes gives her a total of 46,726.  Miller, a Gulf War veteran and attorney who was backed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, has 48,051.

All outstanding votes are expected to be counted by Sept. 8.

UPDATE: The Anchorage Daily News' Sean Cockerham reports that with about half of what is expected to be counted today, Murkowski has an additional 374 votes, and now the difference between her and Miller is down to 1,294, with about 20,000 votes still to be counted.

But the Washington Post's Aaron Blake writes that Murkowski "may not be making up enough ground to win the Republican primary" and she "still has a long way to go before overtaking Miller."

There have been tons of rumors going around, none substantiated and most rejected out of hand.  One is that Murkowski will seek re-election as an independent, or as the candidate of the Libertarian Party; the first is unlikely and the second ain't happening.  The other is that Democrats will dump their nominee, Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, for someone stronger — say, former Gov. Tony Knowles.  That's not happening either.  Politico's Shira Toeplitz reports that Sen. Mark Begich (D) has emerged as McAdams' "most prominent backer since the primary, sending staff and helping him raise money for his bid."  And state Democratic chair Patti Higgins "said speculation about swapping nominees was started by Republicans, and that McAdams 'will make an outstanding U.S. senator for Alaska.'"

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