ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski declared Wednesday that "it ain't over yet, folks" as she faced the prospect of being ousted by a conservative challenger backed by Sarah Palin amid widespread anti-incumbent rage this year.
Joe Miller leads Murkowski by about 2,000 votes with several thousand absentee ballots still to be counted, putting him in position to potentially be the latest political newcomer to defeat a well-known incumbent.
At a news conference in Anchorage, Murkowski mentioned that then-Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008 went to bed one night in the lead and learned later he had lost his Senate seat of 40 years to Mark Begich. She said U.S. Rep. Don Young also reminded her of a race he had won after going into the election thinking he would be the clear loser.
"There is much, much yet to be counted," she said.
Regardless of who prevails, the Republican primary is a sign of Palin's clout in her home state after the former governor and vice presidential candidate had suffered a string of loses recently in endorsing other candidates nationally.
Murkowski declined to discuss what kind of role Palin might have had with the close race, but Palin and the Murkowski family have a tense history.
The Senate race represents the latest chapter in the long-running political saga that began when Murkowski's father, Frank, picked his daughter -- not political up-and-comer Palin -- to replace him in the Senate when he was elected governor in 2002.
Four years later, Palin trounced Frank Murkowski in the GOP gubernatorial primary, the race that launched her start in national politics. The women have occasionally clashed since then on the issue of health care reform and Palin's decision to resign as governor last summer.
Both have denied any bad blood but that didn't stop the potshots in this latest race.
Palin helped raise money for Miller, an Ivy League-educated West Point graduate who served in the Gulf War, and they attacked Murkowski for her positions on the health care overhaul. Miller says Murkowski is at fault for out-of-control spending in Washington.