Senator Lisa Murkowski, the write-in candidate in the Alaska Senate race against Republican Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams, oozed with contempt for Miller during a debate last night, which was televised on Alaska's KTUU:
MURKOWSKI: Scott is not ready to lead. Joe is not fit to lead. I have been leading this state [crowd boos]--I have been leading this state for 8 years. And I will continue to do so, bringing the seniority that I have built, the work ethic that I have built, and the passion for a state that I love.
Murkowski, who was appointed to the Senate 8 years ago by her father, probably didn't help herself much with these disparaging remarks. Her tone and even her word choice--"leading" the state rather than "serving"--betrays a sense of entitlement. And it's tough to argue that Miller, a man who won the Bronze Star in the first Gulf War, is unfit to lead.
Miller has been beset by gaffes, but he had a very strong performance during the debate and showed off his Yale law school intellect, nailing Murkowski for voting against funding a fence along the Mexican border and opposing the Arizona immigration law. On fiscal issues, Murkowski portrayed herself as a supporter of earmarks as well as repealing Obamacare and reforming entitlements. Opposing earmarks in Alaska may be politically difficult, but Miller hit back as effectively as one could:
"When you were appointed by your dad to office, the debt was 6 trillion dollars. You now have a debt of 13. 5 trillion dollars and climbing. You voted for appropriation after appropriation that expanded the debt load not on this generation but on future generations. You deserve to take some responsibility for that. But I would suggest that what this state need to do is it needs to start focusing not on those earmarks--that less than one percent--but we need to focus on trading earmarks perhaps for ANWR, not cap and trade for ANWR, but earmarks for ANWR."
Miller said later in the debate:
We are no longer going to have earmarks whether or not I get elected. The point of it is that the Republican House leadership is opposed to it. It's going to be a Republican majority come November 2nd.
The fact of the matter is even in this state we've seen less and less in the way of earmarks. This year, last time I checked, it was less than 1 percent of the budget. And yet earmarks are the single most corrupting influence in Congress.
We sit back and we ask ourselves why in the world are we passing out these multi-trillion dollar packages, appropriations, it's because the votes are basically bought by the earmarks. So we've got to change things."
If Miller made a mistake in the debate, it was his decision to use his one shot to ask Murkowski a question to ask her about an obscure ethics issue of her own (Miller has been dogged by the press for improperly using computers at work for campaign purposes years ago). The Anchorage Daily News coverage focused mainly on the ethics debate, but Miller needs to run a professional, ideological campaign to win.
Jim DeMint's PAC has smartly cut an ad hitting Murkowski and McAdams for supporting taxpayer-funding of abortion--an issue that didn't come up in the debate. Murkowski didn't vote for abortion funding in Obamacare but has voted against a measure to deny federal "family planning" funding to Planned Parenthood, an organization performs 300,000 abortions per year. Murkowski also supports Roe v. Wade, so Miller can draw a much starker contrast between himself and Murkowski on the issue of abortion than on fiscal issues.
For more on the debate, see CNN's highlight reel, or watch the full debate in five parts: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4, and part 5. The race between Miller and Murkowski is a dead heat: in the RCP average of polls Miller leads Murkowski by 1 point, with McAdams trailing by 10.