KIRSTEN POWERS: Why Folks In Alaska Are Starting to Fear Joe Miller

This week, the uber-conservative Ben Stein described Republican Alaska Senate and Tea Party nominee Joe Miller as a “dangerous, stupid clown” in the Alaska Dispatch.


But he has a point.

Miller has employed bodyguards who roughed up a local editor and has refused to answer basic and reasonable inquiries including why he receives disability pay from the military. He actually held a news conference to tell reporters that he wasn’t going to answer questions about his past, including his work for the local government. He recently suggested that the Berlin Wall is a good example of how we could keep illegal immigrants out of the United States.

Memo to Miller: the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in, not out.

The totalitarian bent in his comment did not go unnoticed, especially in light of news that his bodyguards exercised an authority they didn’t possess in “arresting” the editor they had handcuffed to a chair. Then there’s the issue that even most sitting Senators don’t have bodyguards, so why does Miller believe he is in need of such protection?

Miller has also displayed a disturbing level of secrecy during his campaign, trying to squash routine inquiries from reporters, such as the one requesting information about him being disciplined while working for the Fairbanks North Star Borough. When he refused to answer, media organizations were forced to sue for the personnel records.

Wednesday, we learned why. The records in question revealed that Miller had used government computers to try to influence an online poll to oust the head of the Alaska Republican Party. In order to vote repeatedly without detection, he alternated between three computers and erased the caches in each.

This kind of devious skullduggery is disturbing enough, but he then lied repeatedly to try and cover up what he did.

The drip, drip, drip of strange Joe Miller news has caused him to lose a strong position that once had commentators hailing him as a virtual Senator-in-waiting. A recent poll on the race from CNN showed Miller and Lisa Murkowski deadlocked 37-37 with Democrat Scott McAdams trailing at 23 percent of the vote. A Hays Research Group poll released Thursday showed write-in candidates, presumably meaning Sen. Lisa Murkowski,leading with 34 percent, Democrat Scott McAdams with 29 percent and Miller at 23 percent.

Call it the fear factor.

Anchorage-based pollster Ivan Moore, estimated to me that at least 20% of the electorate is weighing whether to vote for Murkowski or McAdams out of fear for Miller.

Behind the scenes top Democrats are whispering that “a vote for McAdams is a vote for Joe” and urging Democratic voters to fill in the oval for Murkowski. For his part, McAdams is staying in the fight, and at this point it’s anyone’s guess who’ll win, though it is becoming clear that few voters outside his hardcore base are excited about Joe Miller. A poll released this week by the Hays Research poll showed Miller now has a whopping 68 percent disapproval rating in Alaska.

There is plenty to dislike about Joe Miller, not least of which is his stunning hypocrisy. Like many Tea Partiers, Miller cannot square his family’s enthusiastic and frequent leeching of the state with his demands for smaller government. His family has received Medicaid and benefits from a state-run health care program. His wife once collected unemployment benefits. He has even received federal farm subsidies.
Government benefits for me, but not for thee.

Perhaps most disturbing about Miller, though, is that nobody really seems able to get a clear beat on who exactly he is. Whether speaking to Democrats or Republicans in Alaska the same picture emerges of someone who believes in very little except his own exceptionalism; someone who is driven purely by ambition.

“He is a bit of a chameleon,” is what Alaska Statehouse Representative David Guttenberg told me. Guttenberg ran against Miller in 2004 in a seat representing the district in Fairbanks that includes the University of Alaska. It’s a fairly progressive to moderate area. (Full disclosure: my family resides in this district).

Turns out that when Miller was running for that seat he too was conveniently quite moderate.
Said one prospective constituent who met with Miller at the time, “He talked about getting increased funding for the University, and generally sounded very moderate. Nobody ever heard this Tea Party stuff until Miller ran against Murkowski.”

Another longtime Alaska resident who works in Republican politics told me, “If you talk with people who were residents of that district, he wasn’t anything like the person you see on television today. I don’t think anyone knows who Joe Miller is. I believe if he gets elected we will see a different person.”

But who?

Guttenberg says that Miller has figured out how to “ring the bell, and send out the vibration” that the most conservative Alaskans will recognize. Those supporters are unshakable.

Guttenberg points out that when Miller talks about what committee his wants to be on he doesn’t mention anything relating to Alaska’s needs, but instead has his eyes on Judiciary, something that matters not a bit to Alaska’s welfare. Some think he already has his eyes on a higher prize than the Senate, though that could put him in conflict with fellow Alaskan and key supporter Sarah Palin.

As Miller has lost his lead, the Queen Mama Grizzly has reared up, growling from her Facebook page at long-time nemesis Lisa Murkowski for saying Miller was “unfit to lead.” Palin tweeted, “Who are the Republicans supporting Murkowski in AK?? Friends of those voting for Crist in FL?”

Answer: they are Republicans who (rightly) fear Joe Miller.

Kirsten Powers is a Fox News political analyst and New York Post columnist. Follow her on Twitter @kirstenpowers10.