After Tuesday's primaries, Beltway pundits are feeling pretty free to continue promoting Sarah Palin as the Tea Party's secret weapon against Democrats. They are all sure that Palin's endorsement is what threw Joe Miller over the top (for now, anyway) against incumbent Lisa Murkowski. Witness the Washington Post's breathless admiration of Palin's amazing political skills:
Palin may have withdrawn from official life in Alaska, but the surprisingly strong showing in Tuesday's GOP Senate primary by Joe Miller, the long-shot candidate she backed over Lisa Murkowski, made it clear to the entire country that she still exercises great influence in her home state.
They don't stop there:
By endorsing Miller on Facebook, boosting him on Twitter and making robo-calls for him against the heavily favored establishment candidate, Palin risked sacrificing the founding pillar of her political creation myth. Instead, preliminary results from Tuesday's election showed Miller ahead, 45,909 votes to 43,949 votes. According to the Alaska Division of Elections, more than 16,000 absentee ballots were requested and fewer than half had been returned. Whether he ultimately prevailed or not was beside the point. Palin, whose presidential and political aspirations are still undetermined, had demonstrated that the strength of her base is not.
An awkward sentence, that last one, but I'm pretty sure the idea is that Sarah Palin's political allure has pushed Miller ahead of Murkowski with absentee ballots left uncounted.
While Chris Matthews hangs his hat on the Sarah Palin poll numbers showing her to have 76% approval among Republicans in a sort of slavish devotion to her (I wonder if she gives him a chill going up his leg...), only 44% of all Americans self-identify as Republicans (whether registered or not).
While Tweety and Pat-the-Bigot Buchanan rave about Palin's exquisite
brea-- political acumen, it's far more likely that an Alaska ballot initiative requiring parental notice before their child underwent an abortion drove out the most conservative voters and identified Miller more closely with the ballot measure, since Murkowski believes abortion is a private matter between a woman and her doctor, and did not support Measure 2 or campaign for it.
Abortion and money. Both matter in electoral politics, sadly enough. The Tea Party Express, my favorite astroturf outfit based here in California gave $550,000 to Miller's campaign. They also contributed heavily to Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. It worked. The abortion measure passed and Murkowski is locked in a tight ballot count against Miller with only absentee ballots remaining to be counted.
Finally, let's give Diebold's vote scanners and Alaska's electronic voting machines some credit, too. With election workers "encouraging voters to try out electronic voting", any result is possible. It's only a question of what gets counted and what doesn't.