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Palin and friends rally around Senate candidate Miller

Craig Medred

Joe Miller's "Politicking with the Stars" stormed into Anchorage's Dena'ina Convention Center Thursday night starring former Gov. Sarah Palin, a Hollywood actress and a handful of GOP leaders.

"Alaska was born to lead America," Palin told the crowd.

Featured player roles went to state Sen. Fred Dyson, Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich, former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman and Janine Turner -- the actress from the old Alaska TV show "Northern Exposure." The group of GOP and tea party stars who appeared via prerecorded video were 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and South Carolina's Sen. Jim DeMint.

"Lady Liberty and Sarah Palin are lit by the same torch," Bachmann said in her recorded speech. Palin told "Entertainment Tonight" Thursday she may run for president in 2012.

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An estimated 300 to 400 people cheered on Miller and Palin, including many who made the drive down from Wasilla and the Mat-Su Valley, despite the snow Thursday night. Miller, the Alaska Republican Senate candidate locked in a three-for-all race for the seat held by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, was all smiles, even if the crowd was far smaller than the Glen Beck-Sarah Palin 9/11 rally last month in Anchorage.

Miller's rally comes with the once-powerful Alaska Republican Party in disarray. The election cycle began with incumbent Republican Murkowski a seeming shoo-in for re-election. Miller, riding a wave of anti-incumbent anger and lingering Alaska resentments about Murkowski's 2002 appointment to her seat by her father -- Gov. Frank Murkowski -- nipped her chances in the Aug. 24 primary in the electoral version of a photo finish.

"Too many RINOs. We're going to shake that up," Palin told a crowd that heretofore, had seemed almost subdued.

"She's a good speaker all right," said 22 year-old Palmer resident Pete Lampi. "She's got charisma," he said.

For three weeks, Miller was thought to be a certain winner against virtually unknown Democrat Scott McAdams, the mayor of the tiny town of Sitka, located in the middle of the Alaska panhandle, far from the state's urban centers of Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Then Murkowski jumped back into the race as a write-in candidate. The Republicans started throwing mud at each other, McAdams turned out to be a much better campaigner than anyone thought (in part due to support from Mark Begich, Alaska's Democratic U.S. senator), and all of a sudden chaos reigned.

It only got crazier as details continued to surface about the past behaviors of Miller, a Fairbanks Republican who bills himself as a staunch constitutional conservative.

His actions, as it turned out -- filing for federal farm subsidies for land he owned in Kansas, taking advantage of a federal childcare program, utilizing a federal health insurance program -- didn't look all that conservative, and then questions arose about his personnel behaviors.

Was he fired from his job as part-time attorney in Fairbanks? Had he been in trouble there for sneaking onto the computers of co-workers to vote in an online Republican poll, engaging in an attempted cover-up and then lying about it all?

At first, Miller tried to duck and run. He held a press conference at the Dena'ina, not to conference but to announce to the Alaska media that he wasn't going to talk to them anymore, though he continued to talk to reporters from Outside both while traveling and when reporters ventured north. He further underlined his unwillingness to talk to the Alaska media by hiring a security force, which roughed up and then handcuffed Alaska Dispatch's editor, who was said to have been too aggressive in his questioning as he pursued Miller down the hallway of an Anchorage school.

Finally came a state court ruling telling the Fairbanks North Star Borough to release Miller's personnel files dealing with his years as a part-time attorney there, and out poured Miller's own admission that he'd schemed and lied. It all made for a bad past week for the bearded, Yale-educated, West Point-trained, Kansan-born immigrant to Alaska.

Miller, who had said repeatedly that he wanted to talk about the "issues," found himself up against the issue no candidate really likes to talk about -- the candidate himself.

So with his poll numbers falling, Miller turned to old pal Palin and a gang of others Thursday in the hopes that celebrity might at this point be a better sales tactic than substance.

"You're not getting the truth from the lamestream media." Palin said. And then looking towards the media scrum, she said, "You just don't get it," which got the one of the biggest applause lines of the night.

Miller is so qualified to be senator "are we even fit to tie his combat boots?" she asked.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com.