Alaska GOP primary: A lot at stake for 3 candidates and former Gov. Palin on Tuesday

One of the last important primaries before the November midterms will be held Tuesday in Alaska. Voters will pick the Republican candidate to oppose  Democratic Senator Mark Begich.

There are three very credible candidates who are locked in a tough battle: Alaska politician Dan Sullivan, current Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller.

Dan Sullivan, the former attorney general and natural resources commissioner has led for months and is backed by the GOP political establishment including by Fox News contributor and former George W. Bush senior advisor Karl Rove.


Being the establishment candidate is not always the best place to be in Alaska, a solid red state but pretty maverick by any measurement.

Just look, for example, at the career of the lone At Large Congressman, Don Young, now the most senior Republican in the House. Young, who will be third in seniority in the next congress after 20 terms, is a former river boat captain, school teacher and ex-college boxer. Tough, independent and powerful in the Congress Young is a shoo-in to be reelected and will rank behind only Charlie Rangel and John Conyers, both Democrats who represent urban areas.

Over the weekend, Fox News contributor, former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Tea Party favorite Joe Miller and may have shaken up the race a little.

Four years ago, her endorsement of Miller, a total unknown at the time, in the Republican primary led to a defeat for the incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski for the Republican nomination.

The endorsement by Palin over the weekend continued her blood feud with the Murkowski clan. Palin defeated Lisa’s father Frank, the former senator and incumbent governor, in 2006 on her way to the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau.

In 2010, after being defeated in the Republican primary Murkowski staged a dramatic comeback in the general election. She won reelection over Miller in by running a superb but unprecedented write-in campaign as an independent.

This time around Miller has been running third in all the polls (although polls in the Last Frontier State are often unreliable across Alaska’s vast landmass). If Miller wins, Palin will get much of the credit.

The race for the nomination against Democrat Sen. Mark Begich was once viewed as a political path for Palin -- if she wanted to move from cable TV analyst and reality TV star into a serious political role as a U.S. senator. There was no question she would have been the odds on primary favorite to win the nomination and if elected to the senate, her role on the national stage would have been guaranteed.

Love her or hate her, Sarah Palin has been a political force unlike few others in modern times. Unfortunately the longer you are off the political stage, the less important your voice becomes. Others in public office often fill the void.

If Miller loses, Palin’s clout in her home state will be diminished.

The good news is Miller has said if he loses, he won’t run as an independent. That gives whoever wins, Miller, Sullivan or the third candidate Treadwell a great shot of defeating the Democratic incumbent in the fall.

In a big state with a small population anything can happen. But Sarah Palin’s decision not to run again against Begich may have closed out her last opportunity to be elected to public office, at least from Alaska.

She is still an articulate voice and could become an even larger leader of the Tea Party movement if she so chooses.

One of the deficiencies of the Tea Party movement is they have not wanted a leader.

If Palin chooses to walk away from her political base in Alaska and focus her political efforts elsewhere after Tuesday’s primary, she may carve out an entirely new role. She may find a whole new voice. And it may get louder. Then again, the potential is there for her to just become another voice in the wilderness.

Just like the three GOP primary candidates, Palin, too, has a lot a stake in Tuesday’s primary.