As of this writing, a winner in the Alaska Senate race--a three-way contest between Democrat Scott McAdams, Republican nominee Joe Miller, and incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski, who's running as a write-in candidate--hasn't yet been declared. Things look good for Murkowski; early reports give "write-in votes" 41 percent of returns, with Miller getting 34 percent and McAdams 24. But it's not known how many of those write-in votes are actually for Murkowski, and it could be weeks before all the ballots are read and a final count determined. Miller, who's enjoyed the favor of Sarah Palin but whose campaign grew increasingly troubled in the last stretch of the race, hasn't conceded to Murkowski, meaning the Senate seat is still an open question.
What Happens Next The Anchorage Daily News explains: "Alaska's computerized voting system shows how many voters filled in the oval for a write-in candidate, but not the actual name the voter wrote in," meaning a hand count is called for. "That count would begin Nov. 18 and be expected to last three days. The campaigns have been getting ready for the court challenges over 'voter intent' that would be expected to follow. Minor misspellings are probably OK but simply writing 'Lisa M,' for example, could be a problem." The News reports that Robert Campbell, Joe Miller's campaign manager, "saw no scenario where Miller would concede before the hand count."
Spelling Counts... Wonkette's Jack Steuf riffs on the idea of parsing "voter intent." "We have no idea how many of those 81,876 voters counted so far in the write-in column are actually for 'Lisa Murkowski' precisely," writes Steuf. "If even 8,000 people wrote down 'Liza Minnelli' or 'MUR + (K)OW + SKIS' or 'Mike Gravel,' she may lose." Stuef notes that "write-in ballots won't start being counted till November 18," and guesses that "this will drag on approximately forever."
...But Probably Not That Much Paul Mirengoff at Power Line runs the numbers. "'Total write-in' has a commanding 7 point lead over Joe Miller. That translates into more than 13,000 votes," writes Mirengoff. "So Lisa Murkowski (or should I say her voters?) has a decent margin for error as the vote counters decide which of the write-in votes are valid. By my math, she would win even if 15 percent of the write-in votes were deemed 'spoiled' or went to another candidate."
Miller Diehards Flooded the Ballot The Independent reports on a novel tactic used by Miller's base: "After the courts in Alaska ruled last week that election workers could hand voters a list showing the names of write-in candidates as they enter the voting booths, Miller supporters rushed to register themselves as last-minute runners just to dilute whatever advantage the lists might give to Ms Murkowski. Suddenly there were well over 150 write-in candidates in the race."
Puncturing Palin? Robert Stein at The Moderate Voice reads Miller's possible defeat as evidence against Sarah Palin's kingmaking abilities. "The White House can thank Sarah Palin for helping define the limits of crazy and clueless. Even in Alaska, Lisa Murkowski seems to have overcome a Palin vendetta with her write-in effort against Joe Miller," writes Stein. "If Palin is seriously contemplating a run at the nomination then, yesterday was as much a wakeup call for her as for Democrats: Divisiveness can take you only so far in national politics."
Yeesh, This Got Really Personal Slate's Emily Bazelon marvels at the "classic, bitter, transcending rivalry" between Palin and Murkowski. "This isn't a cat fight," writes Bazelon. "It's entrenched warfare—the kind of fight we're used to seeing between men." Bazelon, like Stein, considers what a Murkowski win would say about Palin's influence: "If her own state didn't heed Palin's loud and clear calls to oust Murkowski, how far does her golden touch really extend?"
The Takeaway Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite sums it up. "Joe Miller was probably not the change Alaska was looking for," MacNicol writes, "and it's going to be a long few weeks for state election officials."