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NRSC IE to Begin Funding Ads in Alaska

The National Republican Senatorial Committee as early as Wednesday is scheduled to hit Alaska’s television airwaves with its first independent expenditure ad buy — a concession that GOP nominee Joe Miller is not pulling away in the unusual three-way contest as once hoped.

A copy of the NRSC’s television spot was not yet available. But with Miller locked in a tight battle with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is running as a write-in candidate, and Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams (D), the script could be telling in terms of how committee strategists view this race two weeks out.

Republicans coalesced behind Miller after his defeat of Murkowski in the August GOP primary in an effort to prevent jeopardizing the Alaska seat. However, a series of campaign missteps by Miller, and a drop in the polls that has benefited both Murkowski and McAdams, has the NRSC concerned, forcing it to spend resources on what should otherwise be a safe Republican seat.

“He is taking little counsel from the NRSC, or others, and is running his general election much the same … as his primary. He believes that if it won him the primary, it will work in two weeks,” said a Republican operative based in Washington, D.C. “The NRSC is frustrated.”

Miller’s latest self-inflicted wound occurred Sunday following a town hall meeting. An aggressive reporter for the Alaska Dispatch, a left-leaning Internet publication, shoved a video camera in Miller’s face and attempted to question him. The GOP nominee’s private security detail then arrested and handcuffed the journalist, Tony Hopfinger. The event, like Miller’s other mistakes, has captivated headlines in Alaska and distracted from his campaign message.

The most recent survey, an automated one-day poll from Rasmussen, had Miller at 35 percent, Murkowski at 34 percent and McAdams at 27 percent.

Alaska political operatives are split on the viability of Murkowski’s write-in bid.

Independent pollster Ivan Moore said that surveying a voter’s intent is more reliable than attempting to gauge what an individual will do “physically” once in the voting booth, as Murkowski’s name will not be on the ballot. However, a GOP consultant also based in Alaska said the Murkowski campaign’s voter-education efforts have been pervasive and that the Last Frontier is the kind of small-population state ripe for a write-in to succeed.

Early voting began Monday, and the Murkowski campaign sounded increasingly confident that a campaign initially seen as a long shot would prevail.

“We’re not the establishment anymore, we’re the ones bucking the system,” Murkowski campaign spokesman Steve Wackowski said.

Murkowski’s strategy is to present herself as the only viable alternative to an “extreme” Miller, and in doing so siphon Democratic votes and the support of left-leaning independents from McAdams, while garnering GOP support from establishment and business-oriented Republicans wary of their nominee’s opposition to pork barrel spending.

After first agreeing to answer questions for this story, the Miller campaign did not respond to a request for comment. But Alaska political strategists, emphasizing the unconventional nature of their state’s politics, offered potential outcomes for Miller’s prospects in the final two weeks of the midterm campaign that were both positive and negative.

Moore noted that a red flag for Miller is that his personal favorability ratings have dropped along with his ballot test numbers. Moore said this could be a problem if the contest remains tight. In fact, in a Public Policy Polling survey taken Oct. 9–10, just 35 percent of respondents viewed Miller favorably, with 58 percent viewing him unfavorably.

However, the Alaska GOP consultant said Miller’s support was unlikely to drop much lower than the mid-30s, because of the commitment of his supporters. The real potential danger, this consultant said, was that McAdams would rise and move past Miller and Murkowski as those two continued to beat each other up — unless one of his two opponents, or an outside group, takes him on.

Murkowski’s main campaign target is Miller, although the Senator has feinted a few times in McAdams’ direction. But McAdams, similar to Miller, clearly views Murkowski as his main obstacle.

“We found that Joe Miller’s followers are extremely passionate and extremely loyal,” McAdams campaign spokeswoman Heather Handyside said. “Alaskans’ concern should be Lisa Murkowski’s viability and that she’ll detract enough voters from Scott McAdams.”

On Monday, Miller was interviewed by CNN and addressed a few of the questions about his background that he had declined to answer when asked by the Alaska media.

Miller said that he isn’t perfect and conceded that he did once improperly use a municipal computer for political purposes, an accusation that has been much reported on in the Alaska media. But he defended the actions of his private security detail in the citizen’s arrest of the reporter and said that questions about his background detract from the debate over the issues voters care about.

“I’ll admit I’m a man of many flaws. I’m not going to sit back and say that I’ve conducted my life perfectly. I will tell you that anything that I’ve done that’s not right, it’s been accounted for and it’s been taken care of, and I move on and I learn from mistakes,” Miller said. “Again, when we get confused in the details and when we talk about the details, as we are in this conversation, what does it do? It takes voters away from the real issues.”

The close Alaska Senate race might never have materialized had Murkowski taken Miller seriously during the GOP primary and attacked him with the vigor she has displayed since entering the general election contest as a write-in candidate. Murkowski has dissected nearly every aspect of Miller’s past, presenting it in the worst possible light.

Still, these attacks, and campaign errors that include baiting the media by refusing to answer questions regarding his background, are having an effect. Moore and the Alaska GOP consultant said similar attacks by Murkowski during the primary would have put the Senator over the top in that race.

“Lisa and her entire team were completely asleep at the wheel during the primary,” the GOP consultant added.

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