WASHINGTON — Joe Miller spent Thursday on Capitol Hill trying to woo prominent national conservatives to his side as he prepares to launch a new campaign for the U.S. Senate in Alaska.
The Republican lawyer and tea party favorite made a pilgrimage to D.C. to meet with a number of top conservative legislators in the House and Senate about the Alaska contest, which is expected to be one of the hottest races in 2014.
“Obviously, we’re looking for their support in our race,” Miller said in a Thursday afternoon interview with The Daily Caller.
He declined to reveal publicly which Republicans he met with on Thursday, though allowed: “They’re all solid conservatives.”
The West Point and Yale Law School graduate pulled off an upset in the 2010 Republican primary, defeating incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski. But he ended up losing the general election to Murkowski, who mounted a write-in campaign after her surprising primary loss.
He has already filed papers to take on Alaska Democratic Senator Mark Begich in 2014. Miller said he will officially kick-off his candidacy in the “very near future.”
The looming GOP fight
The GOP primary in the race is shaping up to be a three-way fight: His main GOP competitors are expected to be Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former Alaska attorney general Dan Sullivan.
“They’re both establishment candidates,” he argued. “They both supported Murkowski in the 2010 race. They both have agendas which include internationalism, which I think is at odds with the sovereignty issues with the country. They both made statements in favor of manmade climate change and they need to address that.”
Miller also expects to be attacked by Karl Rove and other outside Republican groups.
“We’re going to have some big dogs come into the fight,” he predicted. “Some establishment folk we know are going to be involved in this because they don’t want another Ted Cruz in the Senate.”
Miller said Republicans who oppose a Cruz-style senator just don’t get it.
“I think they don’t understand what’s at stake for the nation,” he said. “I think they don’t understand what point of decline we’re at the nation. They need to understand that in order to turn this ship around. It’s not the go-along to get along that’s going to get it done.”
Giving a glimpse of the argument he will make against Treadwell and Sullivan, Miller said: “It’s the ruling class destroying the country. And we need to have somebody who reflects the will and the voice of the people.”
Lessons learned from 2010
In 2010, Miller declared his campaign for the Senate just a few months before the primary. Things are different this time around.
“Now we’ve had much more time to organize,” he said. “And we’re taking advantage of that time.”
Asked what he has learned from his previous campaign, Miller replied: “Don’t let the establishment in your campaign.”
“The establishment basically directed our campaign in the general election and was not for our victory,” he said. “We’re much wiser in that regard. Organizationally we suffered in 2010. And we’re addressing that at a very early stage now.”
Miller added: “We’ve obviously done assessments of our past supporters and have determined they are still with us, which is very encouraging.”
Asked about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — who backed his 2010 campaign — Miller said his campaign routinely keeps in touch with her team but said he didn’t know whether she will endorse him again.
“We would absolutely love to have her endorsement,” he said.
Miller said he has not spoken with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell since the 2010 race. Asked whether he approves of McConnell’s leadership, Miller paused for several seconds to gather his thoughts.
“Well, I think that the Senate needs to take a really strong stand against the growth of government, against Obamacare,” he said.
“I’d like to see leadership along the lines of what we’ve seen from Cruz and Lee — where you basically know that the nation is at stake,” Miller continued. “And all stops have to be pulled in order to save the nation. That’s the kind of leadership I’d like to see. And I’d like to see that leadership demonstrated, obviously, by the minority leader.”
Miller said he and Murkowski have a “cordial” relationship. He said he recently saw her in Washington and she visited one of the congressional offices that nominated his son to West Point.
“I’d be able to work with her if elected from Alaska,” Miller said. “But we’re certainly at political odds.”
Taking on Begich
His primary opponents will likely argue he can’t win a general election, but Miller said Thursday he can “absolutely” beat Begich.
Speaking of the Democrat’s approval numbers, Miller said: “He’s at 39 percent right now, which is considerably less than the incumbent that we defeated in the primary in 2010. She was sitting at 70 plus. So that’s all very good news.”
Miller predicted that Obamcare will be “a big issue, a major issue, the issue.”
“With respect to Begich, he’s the 60th vote for Obamacare,” Miller said. “That’s a political noose around his neck for the general election. His approval rating is reflecting that.”
Miller suggested he will also go after Begich for his support of judicial nominees who are for gun restrictions and for his support of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who wants to restrict development of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“This is an Alaskan race,” Miller said. “It’s about Alaskan issues. It’s about how the Alaskan middle class has gotten left in the lurch because their interests aren’t reflected. It’s about Obamacare and how that’s gotten hung around the necks of Alaskans who didn’t want it.”