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Democrats Should Look North to Alaska, and Thank Sarah Palin | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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Democrats Should Look North to Alaska, and Thank Sarah Palin

The delicious debacle that is the Alaska U.S. Senate race just keeps getting tastier.

The likely but not certain Republican nominee just got in a three-vehicle accident and then had to apologize for his campaign sending out a Tweet that, depending on how you read it, described the incumbent Republican senator as a "prostitute."

The incumbent is spitting mad and saying so in interviews where, when she isn't demanding apologies, is refusing to concede defeat in a close race where there are still 23,000 uncounted ballots. She is, as well, refusing to say that she will not mount a November campaign on a third-party line or as a write-in candidate. (The most likely third-party, the Libertarians, are divided on the question of whether they want her. But, depending on how you read election law, she might have other options, including the Alaskan Independence Party that Todd Palin used to support.)

And what of the Democrat?

He is suddenly viable.

A new survey of likely November voters conducted by Public Policy Polling suggests that Democrat Scott McAdams, the mayor of Sitka, is competitive with the likely Republican nominee, Joe Miller, a protege of Sarah Palin who has never held public office but appears to have beaten incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski.

McAdams is at 39 percent to 47 percent for Miller.

In a three-way race, it would be Miller 38, Murkowski 34, McAdams 22.

Were Murkowski to somehow make a comeback in the final count and secure the GOP nod, she would crush Miller by a 60-28 margin.

The key to understand what is happening here is that a substantial portion of the moderate Republicans and independents who would vote for Murkowski are not inclined to vote for Miller.

That provides McAdams, a credible but little-known Democrat, with a genuine opening.

Indeed, as Miller, who crashed his truck into another vehicle Friday, spins out of control -- on the road and on the campaign trail -- that opening expands.

Miller is now suggesting that the National Republicans Senatorial Campaign is trying to meddle in the counting process, while Murkowski is calling him "paranoid."

The question now is whether national Democrats will help McAdams take advantage of the Republican rumbling.

That will require a rare level of flexibility on the part of the Democrats, who have been anything but agile this year.

What they need to recognize is that campaigns are not fixed events. They are fluid. Things change. And what has changed in Alaska is that Sarah Palin and her Tea Partisan pals have created dynamic that might just play to the advantage of a smalltown mayor who fits the profile of an Alaskan winner -- and to a national Democratic Party that hasn't many lucky breaks in this volatile year.

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