Murkowski win: a blow to Palin's power

By Philip Elliott
Washington (AP) November 2010

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski's stunning write-in victory was a big rebuke to Alaska's other favorite daughter, Sarah Palin.

The former governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate backed scores of congressional and gubernatorial candidates this election, a sought-after endorsement that helped lift several Republicans to victory. But she and her husband, Todd, invested far more time and money for Joe Miller, a tea party-backed challenger who shocked Murkowski, the incumbent, by capturing the Republican Senate nomination.

Murkowski's write-in win over Miller in last week's count was a rebuke for Palin on her home turf by voters who know her best, the latest chapter in a bitter family feud that at times seemed more personal than political. It's also an embarrassment as Palin considers a White House bid.

Just this week, Murkowski said she couldn't support Palin for president.

"She would not be my choice," Murkowski told CBS News. "I just do not think she has those leadership qualities, that intellectual curiosity that allows for building good and great policies. You know, she was my governor for two years, about two years there, and I don't think that she enjoyed governing. I don't think she liked to get down into the policy."

Palin had gone all-in on an effort to oust Murkowski. Todd Palin lent his hand, too, raising money for what was then a long-shot Miller campaign. Weeks later, his wife jumped into the race after initially donating money to Murkowski.

"I'm proud to join so many other longtime Alaskans in supporting Joe Miller in the upcoming Alaska Republican primary," Palin wrote on her Facebook page, her preferred form of communicating with millions of online supporters. "Joe is a true commonsense constitutional conservative, and we're thankful he and his family are willing to offer us a choice in Alaskan leadership."

Theirs is a bitter rivalry. Palin defeated Murkowski's father in a rough gubernatorial primary in 2006. The two women have done little to conceal a personal animus, and the Senate contest was an ideal vehicle for their feud and for Palin's ambitions to be a kingmaker for conservatives.

Trying to downplay Palin's influence, Murkowski said the former governor is being credited for Miller's primary win but also pointed to the California-based Tea Party Express, which sent millions to the state.

"She gave the endorsement, but she wasn't up in the state, going around and doing events for him," Murkowski said.

From Florida to Alaska, Palin backed candidates and helped scores to victory. More than three dozen of the Republicans she supported won seats in Congress. Palin helped South Carolina elect Nikki Haley as the nation's first Indian-American woman governor; tea party-darling Marco Rubio is heading to the U.S. Senate after she rallied tea party activists in Florida.

It built up good will should Palin seek the White House in 2012, which she said she is considering in a ABC News interview released Wednesday. Asked if she could beat Barack Obama, she said she definitely could. Yet she came up short in a state she led for part of one term and a contest she never shied from touting.