Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a scion of what was once one of Alaska's most famous political families, found her Senate career on the brink Wednesday morning.
Murkowski was trailing previously little-known attorney Joe Miller by about 2,500 votes, according to an unofficial count by the Associated Press with 84 percent of the precincts reporting.
Miller highly benefited from support from the Tea Party Express and the backing of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who in the 2006 GOP primary defeated then-Gov. Frank Murkowski.
But with more than 16,000 ballots expected to be received within 10 to 15 days, the winner of this battle could remain unclear for days.
Murkowski's performance is a reminder of continued voter discontent toward incumbents and the influence Palin can wield on elections, especially on her home turf.
Miller's only previous foray into politics was a loss in the 2004 state representative race, and the attorney had little name recognition before the Tea Party Express and Palin weighed in.
Miller made big government a key issue and campaigned against Murkowski as not conservative enough -- striking just the right chords with the Tea Party Express, the most well known national Tea Party organization, which ultimately poured a half-million dollars into the race to try to knock out the state's senior senator.
Palin stepped up her efforts in the race's closing days, posting another letter of support on her Facebook page 10 days ago and cutting a robo-call that was blasted to Alaska voters over the weekend. She also commissioned her husband, Todd, to pen a fundraising letter that was mailed to Tea Party Express supporters. Noting that he rarely sends fundraising letters, Todd said the effort was designed to raise $150,000 within 48 hours. (Continues here)