Earlier this week, with the results coming in early Wednesday morning for the majority of us living in the lower 48, Alaska held its primaries. For the purposes of national politics, the key primary was the Republican Senate primary with the winner getting the right to face Democratic Senator Mark Begich in November. There were three major candidates -- two supported by various parts of the national Republican establishment (Dan Sullivan and Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell) and one Tea Party candidate (2010 nominee Joe Miller). At the end of the day, Sullivan got 40% of the vote to Miller's 32%. Having gotten a "mainstream" candidate in a solidly Republican state, Republicans have to be salivating about the possibility of regaining this seat (which they lost due to the Ted Stevens fiasco in 2008), but what if?
The what if in this case is Joe Miller. In 2010, Joe Miller beat Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Republican Senate Primary. Senator Murkowsi did not accept the primary defeat and ran as a write-in candidate. Now the shoe is on the other foot. If the establishment wing of the Republican Party of Alaska feels that it is not bound by the primary results and can re-run its candidate as a write-in in the general election, why should the Tea Party accept the primary results. Of course, the big difference between 2010 and 2014 is that, this time, the Democrats have a viable candidate who would be helped if a significant number of Republicans voted for a write-in candidate (and will not be tempted to support the write-in candidate). (In 2010, Murkowski won the general election over Miller by 39% to 35% with the Democrat getting 23%, by contrast the Democratic candidate for governor got 37% and President Obama got 40% in 2012).
So the question for the next several weeks is does Joe Miller accept his primary loss or does he decide to follow the example of his 2010 opponent and run as a write-in. What happens in November may turn on the answer to this question.