Introduced to Alaska with an endorsement by former governor Sarah Palin, Fairbanks Republican senatorial challenger Joe Miller proceeded to personify the qualities Americans have learned to expect from its military academy graduates. He entered into the election arena through a door opened by Alaska’s former governor, and succeeded on his own merits to close his campaign with a small lead over his eminently powerful incumbent opponent.
Miller went to war with Sen. Lisa Murkowski clearly outnumbered and out-gunned. In essence, he went into battle with the army of volunteers he had, not with the army he wished he had. In contrast, Murkowski had everything she wished for in her war chest, with the possible exception of a record she probably wished she didn’t have.
While rallying for support from any potential ally, Miller strategically deployed his forces over the long haul of the campaign to inflict damage whenever and wherever a tactical opportunity presented itself. In contrast, his opponent’s strategy was to bob and weave, as well as to move constantly from one corner to another to avoid any interaction at all with Mr. Miller.
The results posted on election eve clearly demonstrated that the establishment party faithful had underestimated the threat posed by Mr. Miller, and that their candidate’s hide-and-seek strategy was a vital mistake. Theoretically it seems, the Murkowski camp believed if they engaged with him in the contest, they would provide Mr. Miller the credibility he desperately needed to be successful. Thus, the Murkowski camp forced him to establish credibility on his own, as though a resume’ that included West Point and combat was not enough.
The establishment’s worst mistake however, was to disregard the fact that graduates of West Point are taught much more than just to win wars. By taking for granted the power of incumbency, in the face of an academy graduate and combat veteran following in the footsteps of many men of valor, the elitist campaign committed a serious unforced error. Candidate Miller methodically established his credibility as a candidate as he skillfully defined the senator as a big government liberal, and artfully used the incumbent’s own strategy against her by contrasting her record with the values and principles held dear to the citizens of Alaska.
Reminiscent of the confrontation between (Don’t call me ma’am, I earned the title) Senator Boxer and a general officer, Sen. Murkowski sought to sweep aside her heretofore unknown challenger, a former army officer. Senator Boxer made a grave error in judgment in her condescending interaction with a general officer, and Senator Murkowski made a grave error in judgment in her decision not to interact with a veteran who was not just a former army officer, but an officer selected, trained and educated not only to be a leader, but to really fight for what he believed in.