Alaska Senate Election Battle: No Winner Until Thanksgiving?

On Wednesday's Washington Unplugged, KTVA reporter Matt Felling explained that even with the lead it took Murkowski a lot more time, energy and money than if she had won the Republican primary, "{Miller} took the race seriously. It's like in football; you're looking past one opponent to the next opponent. She looked past Joe Miller back on August 24th and she paid the ultimate price."

Only once has a write-in Senate candidate been successful, the late Strom Thurmond who won South Carolina's Senate race back in 1954. Murkowski though isn't your typical, run of the mill write-in candidate.

As a current senator, she has the name recognition, support and money to make for a serious contender which, for now, has given her the lead over Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams. See current Alaska results here

Alaskans, and the rest of nation, now wait for a result and that wait could be a long one.

"Now, the lawyers enter the equation. Just because a write-in bubble is filled, it doesn't mean they spelled Murkowski right," Felling told Plante, "It doesn't mean that all the technical aspects of putting pencil to paper actually worked out."

Plante asked Felling just how long it might actually take to count the ballots in Alaska. "Honestly, we're not going to start counting the absentees until November 18th and we've got a large, huge military population in Alaska. That's going to be a significant number," Felling responded, "It is looking like there is a battle to be fought. We will not have a certified winner until after Thanksgiving. Sorry, Bill."

Even with that seemingly long wait for a decision, don't expect visions of 2000 or the Minnesota Senate saga in 2008 as Felling explained, "We will have a good sense of where things are headed. I don't think it's going to be Bush/Gore or Franken/Coleman. But it's going to be pretty ugly by Alaska standards."

Complete Election 2010 House, Governor and Senate Results

And what about Sarah Palin? Pundits and politicos are weighing in today on how the candidates she supported fared (By CBS News' count right now stands at 31 House wins, 6 Senate wins, 16 House losses and 4 Senate losses). Plante asked Felling about her impact on voters in this race. "Honestly, we don't see that much of Sarah Palin except for what we see on the national cable networks. She definitely brought a lot of 'oomph' to the Joe Miller campaign. She is the number one reason we had Joe Miller as the Republican primary winner. She brought him across the finish line when she endorsed him during the summer months."

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Did the "Palin bump" have a positive impact on Miller's general election campaign? Seems the jury's still out as Felling continued, "As for whether she could translate that into more votes, it remains to be seen. She is not the number one favorite daughter of Alaska at this point, but she still has a strong constituency of people who are happy for her in her reality TV and political career. She should definitely be credited with where Joe Miller stands today because without her we wouldn't be talking about a write-in campaign because it would have been a Lisa Murkowski win last night."

Watch Wednesday's Washington Unplugged also featuring CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid with a wrap-up of President Obama's post-election news conference and Politico's Shira Toeplitz on a split Congress and why we can expect to see gridlock.


Lauren Seifert
Lauren Seifert is an associate producer for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. For more Washington Unplugged, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.