Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski Trailing Behind Tea Party Favorite, Another Incumbency Upset?

Joe Miller Received a Last-Minute Boost from Sarah and Todd Palin.

ByABC News
August 23, 2010, 7:04 PM

Aug. 25, 2010 -- In what could be another huge upset for an incumbent, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski appeared to be losing to Tea Party favored Joe Miller in a heated fight that pitted one mama grizzly against another -- Sarah Palin.

The votes were still being counted in Alaska and the race was too close to call Wednesday morning. But with 98 percent of precincts reporting, Murkowski was trailing behind Miller by about 2,000 votes.

However, more than 7,500 absentee ballots still need to be counted and that may not begin happening until next Tuesday.

Murkowski, who is seeking a second term, is supported by virtually the entire Republican establishment. But Palin, who ousted Murkowski's father in 2006 to become Alaska's governor, loomed large in the race even though she was not on the ballot. A last-minute push by Palin and her husband Todd elevated Miller, whose rallies grabbed headlines in July for theirgun-toting supporters.

Palin accused Murkowski of supporting the Obama administration's agenda and siding with Democrats on key issues.

"She's waffled on the repeal of Obamacare, co-sponsored cap-and-trade and voted for TARP," Palin said in recorded telephone message for Miller. "Joe Miller has the right ideas for Alaska."

Miller was also supported by a bevy of conservative activists and radio hosts, including California-based Tea Party Express and conservative commentators Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin.

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On the flip side, it was a good night for another incumbent. Arizona Sen. John McCain breezed to victory against former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a talk radio host mounting a challenge from the right against the 2008 Republican presidential candidate.

McCain, who took no chances in his primary fight, led Hayworth by 51 percent of the vote.

McCain spent $21 million on the primary, a staggering sum for a candidate who was his party's nominee for president just two years ago, but the seriousness with which McCain took the primary, altering some of his more independent positions to appeal to a conservative base, helped him handily defeat Hayworth.

"This was a tough, hard-fought primary," McCain said in his victory speech. "I promise you, I take nothing for granted and will fight with every ounce of strength and conviction I possess to make the case for my continued service in the Senate."

McCain, who has never lost a statewide race, is the odds-on favorite to win a fifth term come November. He has promised to "fight with every ounce of strength and conviction" against his Democratic challenger Rodney Glassman.

In another high-profile race in Arizona fraught with controversy, the son of former vice president Dan Quayle, Ben, clinched the Republican nomination in the 10-way primary for the House seat.

Buyoed by a last-minute push by his parents that included an appeal defending their son, Quayle sailed to the forefront with 23 percent of the vote. The outspoken Obama critic earned some heat for allegedly contributing to a racy website in the past.