Candidates make final push in Senate race

Posted: Tuesday, November 02, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Alaska's three main U.S. Senate candidates made their final cases to voters Monday, with high-profile surrogates also weighing in on the hotly contested race that might remain in limbo well after Election Day.

Financial disclosures show a flurry of last-minute spending on the race, including from Tea Party Express, which had maintained a relatively low profile since helping Joe Miller defeat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the August GOP primary. Alaska Native corporations have spent nearly $1.3 million through their PAC to help Murkowski, who's running a write-in campaign.

And the millions of dollars poured into the race - by the candidates and outside groups - have kept ads on the air seemingly nonstop.

Then there are the big names: former President Bill Clinton did a robocall for Democrat Scott McAdams, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, maintained a vigilant attack on Murkowski on Miller's behalf.

"I think at this point, frankly ... it's all sound and fury, signifying nothing," pollster Ivan Moore said. "They're trying to impact things in a meaningful way at the last moment, but I think, at this point, things are pretty much solidified as to what will happen."

Polls have been all over the map, leaving campaign staffers on edge heading toward an election that might not be settled for weeks, given the quirks of Alaska's ballot counting process and uncertainties surrounding a write-in campaign.

Each of the candidates claimed momentum Monday, as they sought to shore up their base support, secure a share of independents and sway the undecideds to their camp. Various estimates pegged those still waiting to decide at 5 percent to 20 percent heading into the race's final stretch.

Miller, who planned a "God and Country" rally Monday night, cast himself as a "reformer," who would be unyielding in pushing for a smaller government if sent to Washington and Murkowski as part of the problem in an out-of-control Congress. Murkowski stressed her seniority and what she believes to be the extreme views of Miller and inability of McAdams to win. McAdams said he was the only truly moderate, progressive voice in the race and that if Alaskans voted their values, and not just strategically, he'd be victorious.

Tim Barnhart, 53, an independent from Anchorage, was split between Miller and Murkowski. Though he'd voted for Murkowski in the past, he said at a weekend ski swap, where he met Murkowski, that he was bothered she "ignored" the primary process and decided to run as a write-in. He figured he wouldn't make up his mind until he got into the voting booth.

Jay Burke, 62, a "conservative" Republican from Houston, said he struggled with whether to vote for Miller, who in recent weeks has acknowledged his family once got the kinds of government benefits he questions as a candidate and saw records released that showed Miller had admitted to lying about improperly using government computers while a borough attorney in 2008.

But after attending a Miller rally, headlined by Palin, and hearing more about Miller, he said Monday that he realized it's "not reasonable to expect perfection." He said Miller represents his values and he believes he'll deliver on his pledge to try to turn the country around.

Palin has been the most prominent of Miller's supporters, lashing out at what she considers a "media plot" against him. Over the weekend, Miller's campaign released a recording that they said indicated staff at KTVA-TV in Anchorage were discussing creating stories about Miller. The station's general manager authenticated the recording but called the allegation "absurd" and said it was staff discussing potential "what if" scenarios surrounding that Miller rally.

She also accused Murkowski and "her hired guns" of getting a conservative radio talk show host yanked off the air for encouraging people to run as write-in candidates. Murkowski's campaign has denied involvement in getting Dan Fagan pulled off the air for a day.

Moore said Palin's casting of the media versus Miller is an effort to further motivate conservatives to vote for him.

But Murkowski spokesman Steve Wackowski dismisses the significance of Palin's re-emergence in the race.

"Gov. Palin is only one vote," he said.

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