In Alaska primary, Tea Party eyes GOP lawyers warily

Jonathan Strong Jonathan Strong, 27, is a reporter for the Daily Caller covering Congress. Previously, he was a reporter for Inside EPA where he wrote about environmental regulation in great detail, and before that a staffer for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). Strong graduated from Wheaton College (IL) with a degree in political science in 2006. He is a huge fan of and season ticket holder to the Washington Capitals hockey team. Strong and his wife reside in Arlington.
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With the camps of two Republican primary candidates in Alaska scrambling to fly in operatives and consultants in the aftermath of a still contested vote held on Tuesday night, Tea Party leaders who backed lawyer Joe Miller are warily eying the GOP establishment legal and political teams who just arrived at Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s request.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which sent the GOP operatives to Alaska in the aftermath of the vote, is taking pains to show it is impartial to the two candidates. But several GOP sources told The Daily Caller they presumed the NRSC agents would be working to help Murkowski.

“If the NRSC were to have an ulterior motive in these efforts I think that would be a mistake, as Republican leaders in Washington have to know by now that they need to earn the confidence and trust of tea party supporters,” said a top official of the Tea Party Express, Joe Wierzbicki.

Any election nail-biter is tense, with each campaign competing fiercely over every vote. In his case, Wierzbicki made a veiled threat that NRSC assistance to the Murkowski campaign could imperil Tea Party support for GOP candidates in the November midterm elections.

“The NRSC needs the votes of tea party activists to win these Senate races across the country in November, so we’d encourage them to remember that when taking any actions involving the vote-counting process in Alaska,” Wierzbicki said.

Miller is currently leading Murkowski by over 1,600 votes. But there are still roughly 10,000 absentee ballots to be counted. Some Murkowski allies are hopeful the absentee ballots could break for her because the Murkowski campaign courted early voters, while the Miller campaign did not.

But once all the votes are tallied, the prospect of a recount looms. In Alaska, voters decide via paper ballots, which are scanned for the results. Paper ballots typically leave much more room for interpreting voter intent compared to electronic voting machines, campaign experts say.

Neither the NRSC, the Miller campaign, nor the Murkowski campaign returned a phone call for comment