Alaska Senate Race Becomes a Dead Heat

The three Alaska U.S. Senate candidates are Republican nominee Joe Miller, write-in candidate and incumbent Lisa Murkowski, and Democrat Scott McAdams.

There are 27 days now until the midterm elections. In the battle for control of Congress, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement have been factors in some of the races, including in her home state of Alaska.

A CBS News poll out tonight finds more than twice as many Americans have a negative opinion of Palin as a positive opinion. And opinions of the Tea Party? Our new poll finds that they're just about evenly split.

In the Alaska senate race, Joe Miller, supported by Palin and the Tea Party, took the GOP nomination from incumbent Lisa Murkowski who's now waging a write-in campaign. Democrat Scott McAdams is far behind.

Pressing the flesh at a hockey game in Anchorage, Republican U.S. senator Lisa Murkowski never expected to be on such thin ice.

"Nobody was more disappointed than I was," said Murkowski in an ad.

She's the incumbent from one of the state's political power families.

"I'm Joe Miller, the true conservative choice for the U.S. Senate in Alaska," he said in an ad.

Yet Miller, an unknown attorney and tea party insurgent, beat Murkowski in the Republican primary. She is now running as a write-in candidate. The race is a dead heat, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.

"This will be a Republican seat," says Murkowski. "The real question to Alaskans is: Which Republican do you want to represent you in Washington, D.C.?"
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Miller, who denied repeated requests for an interview, questions whether federal programs such as social security, Medicare and unemployment benefits are constitutional.

"The people who are likely to vote for Lisa are the people more on the left who are appalled by the thought of Joe Miller winning," says Ivan Moore, an Alaska pollster.

This race is not just about candidates. It's about who is supporting them, namely the Tea Party Express and mama grizzly herself, Sarah Palin.

Palin played kingmaker in the primary and endorsed Miller. The California-based Tea Party Express bought $600,000 in ads that savaged Murkowski.

In one ad was the question, "How liberal is Lisa Murkowski?"

Now Joe Miller may be at odds with the Palins after dodging this question asked by Chris Wallace on Fox News:

Wallace: "Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president and do you want to see her run?"

Miller: "That's not my role to comment on those candidacies."

For weeks since, Sarah Palin has not even mentioned Joe Miller. Her husband, Todd, sent him an angry e-mail which reads, "Joe, please explain how this endorsement stuff works, is it to be completely one sided." [sic]

Wednesday on Fox News Miller would only say Palin is "constitutionally" qualified to be president.

"We don't have professional sports here, so really politics is our game," says Craciun's Research's Jean Craciun.

Even with winter already blowing in, the game in Alaska couldn't get any hotter.