The Morning Line: Shocker in Alaska as Incumbent Hangs in the Balance

BY Terence Burlij  August 25, 2010 at 8:10 AM EST

The Morning Lne

Officials are still counting votes Wednesday morning in Alaska, where a political upset is brewing with incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski trailing attorney Joe Miller in the Republican primary.

With 84 percent of precincts reporting, Miller had 51.46 percent of the vote to Murkowski’s 48.54 percent — a margin of just 2,565 votes — with thousands of ballots left to be counted.

According to the Anchorage Daily News:

“The final results of the race won’t be known for over a week. The Alaska Division of Elections said over 16,000 absentee ballots were requested and as of Monday night 7,600 had been returned. The first count of absentees will be next Tuesday and there will be two subsequent counts as the absentee votes trickle in on Sept. 3 and on Sept. 8.”

Miller, a Tea Party favorite, also had the backing of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, an endorsement he called “pivotal” on election night.

Murkowski, meanwhile, relied on her considerable money advantage, outspending Miller by more than 10 to one, while also touting the benefits of her Senate seniority.

If Murkowski loses, she would join Utah Republican Bob Bennett and Pennsylvania Democrat Arlen Specter as the third incumbent senator to fall in a primary contest this cycle.

OTHER PRIMARY RESULTS

Republican Party standard bearer John McCain decisively defeated former Rep. J.D. Hayworth in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Arizona by a whopping 57 percent to 32 percent.

McCain ran a textbook campaign for any incumbent feeling the political earth shake beneath their feat: Raise tons of money and spend it early in a negative and defining TV ad campaign against your opponent. It may have cost him $21 million, but McCain and his campaign took nothing for granted this year and it paid off. Sens. Bennett, Specter, and Murkowski are likely looking to the Arizonan with a bit of envy Wednesday morning.

And despite the controversy surrounding his posts on a racy website, Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, won the Republican nomination in Arizona’s third congressional district and is likely headed to the U.S. Congress.

In Florida, voters sent some conflicting messages. The outsider millionaire in the race for governor secured the GOP nomination, while the Democratic establishment candidate in the Senate race easily rebuffed an outsider challenge despite being outspent five to one.

Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., trounced his Democratic rival, billionaire real estate guru Jeff Greene, by 26 points — 57 percent to 31 percent. Greene spent nearly $30 million of his own money on the race.

Meek now goes on to what promises to be one of the marquee races of the midterm election season: a three-way general election between Meek, independent Gov. Charlie Crist and Republican Marco Rubio.

All eyes will now be on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to see how much money it’s willing to pour into Meek’s effort with him lagging in the polls and his bank account completely depleted from his primary run.

Of course, the DSCC could just invest money taking down Rubio and hope that benefits either Crist or Meek since national Democrats would be happy with either one of them winning.

Unlike the Senate race, in the race for the Republican nomination for governor, millionaire and former hospital CEO Rick Scott spent his way to victory. The first-time candidate spent nearly $50 million of his own fortune to defeat state Attorney General Bill McCollum, 47 percent to 43 percent.

This bruising and nasty primary will take some time to heal. McCollum initially refused to concede the race on Tuesday night before finally issuing a press release early Wednesday morning acknowledging he lost. However, the statement contained no endorsement for Scott. A planned GOP unity rally for Wednesday was canceled Tuesday afternoon.

Meantime, in the Democratic primary Alex Sink cruised to victory. She hopes to seize upon the continued Republican intra-party divisions as the general election begins for the governor’s mansion in a critical battleground state.

SHERROD TURNS DOWN USDA JOB

Mostly lost in Tuesday’s primary scramble was Shirley Sherrod’s decision to decline an offer to return to the Department of Agriculture.

Sherrod had been forced to resign last month after the emergence of an edited video clip of a speech she gave that made it seem like she had discriminated against a white farmer. The speech, however, was about racial reconciliation.

The Obama administration was heavily criticized for its handling of the episode, later attempting to recruit Sherrod back to the department with a call from the president to apologize and an offer of promotion to deputy director of outreach and advocacy.