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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 12/ 9/2010

Joe Miller ended campaign with $900k on hand

By Chris Cillizza

1. Alaska Republican Joe Miller ended his general election campaign against Sen. Lisa Murkowski with nearly $1 million in the bank -- a sum that almost certainly could have helped what is looking more and more like a lost race.

According to his post-election campaign finance report, Miller raised more than $3 million for the race, spending $2.2 million and ending the campaign with $980,000, as of Nov. 22.

Of the money Miller did spend, about $100,000 went toward repaying himself for loans he made during his GOP primary win over Murkowski. Following her primary defeat, Murkowski ran as a write-in candidate.

That Miller's campaign only spent about two-thirds of its cash should be cause for pause, especially considering that it looks like he will only lose by a few points.

Miller isn't the first tea party-backed candidate to commit what many will say is campaign malpractice.

Delaware's Christine O'Donnell (R), turned some heads when she ended her campaign with nearly $1 million in the bank. O'Donnell, who raised about twice as much as Miller, reasoned that she wanted to be prepared for legal wrangling after the race.

That could be Miller's defense too, given that Murkowski was running a viable write-in campaign, which has been the subject of a significant legal back and forth since Nov 2. But banking nearly one-third of the total amount you raised is highly unusual for any candidate in a close race.

Miller's campaign did not dispute the numbers but had no ready answers late Wednesday for why it reserved so much cash.

Miller's report shows $240,000 in receipts in the three weeks since Election Day, including money contributed by Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund, which backed Miller's campaign and is supporting his post-election challenge to the results. Miller also spent about $150,000 since Nov. 3, including $80,000 on his campaign and another $50,000 to repay loans Miller made to the campaign.

In total, the report, which covers expenditures and disbursements from Oct. 14 through Nov. 22, shows Miller repaid himself more than $96,000 worth of loans made during his primary with Murkowski, including paying off more than half of that total before Election Day.

All things considered, Miller had about $900,000 in his campaign account the day after Election Day.

After all write-in ballots were counted, Miller trailed Murkowski by 10,000 votes or about four percentage points. He has challenged more than 8,000 write-in ballots, but even if all those challenges are successful, he would still trail by more than 2,000 votes.

Miller is asking the state's courts to call for a hand recount, even as many Republicans are urging him to give up the fight.

2. Maine Gov.-elect Paul LePage (R) has indicated that he will support Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) over any conservative primary challengers in 2012.

The move is a big boost for the moderate Snowe, who faces the possibility of a tough primary in her bid for a fourth term. LePage is a tea-party favorite who won the GOP nomination in an upset over six other challengers and went on to win the governor's mansion.

In an interview with a local TV station, LePage said that his personal relationship with Snowe's late husband, Peter Snowe, played a large part in his decision.

"My relationship with Olympia Snowe transcends politics," LePage said. "I would always support Olympia Snowe. It has nothing to do with politics, it's all about a personal relationship." (The news of LePage's support for Snowe was first reported by the National Review.)

Erik Potholm, a Republican media consultant who has worked extensively in the state, said that Snowe isn't likely to follow in the footsteps of other establishment GOPers who lost to tea party candidates in the 2010 cycle.

"If there is a primary challenge, she won't make the same mistakes Mike Castle or Lisa Murkowski made," Potholm said of Snowe. "She'll be ready and run a very strong campaign."

3. Businessman and former Democratic Senate nominee Ned Lamont (D) said he is unlikely to run against Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) again in 2012.

Lamont, who is coming off a loss in the gubernatorial primary this year, told the Connecticut Mirror that other prospective Senate candidates have reached out to him to gauge his intentions.

"I say, 'Well, go for it,' " Lamont said. "I've been through the meat grinder with my family."

More likely Democratic candidates are Rep. Chris Murphy and Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. Ted Kennedy Jr., the son of the late senator, has also been mentioned but hasn't indicated whether he is interested.

On the GOP side, 2010 governor nominee Tom Foley, 2010 Senate nominee Linda McMahon and her primary opponent, former Rep. Rob Simmons, are all considered potential candidates.

The GOP didn't get a strong candidate in 2006 and wound up being a non-factor in a general election matchup between Lamont and Lieberman, who ran as an independent after losing the primary to Lamont.

Lieberman is not expected to seek either party's nomination in 2012.

4. Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow enters the 2012 election cycle on uncertain footing, according to a new poll from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling.

The survey shows Stabenow in a statistical tie with three potential GOP opponents. Against Rep. Pete Hoekstra, Stabenow is at 45 and Hoekstra is at 44. Against Rep. Candice Miller, Stabenow takes 46 percent to Miller's 42 percent. And against Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, Stabenow's stands at 45 percent to Land's 41 percent.

Stabenow fares better when matched up against former Gov. John Engler, leading by eight points. She also leads unknown businessman Tim Leuliette 47 percent to 30 percent.

Stabenow isn't particularly popular in the state, with 41 percent approving of her performance and 40 percent disapproving.

Hoekstra, who is coming of a loss in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, has left open the possibility of running against Stabenow. Miller was recruited to run against Stabenow in 2006 but opted against it.

5. O'Donnell (R), the marketing consultant who came up short last month in her bid against Delaware Sen. Chris Coons (D), announced Wednesday that she is forming a political action committee. The move is the clearest signal yet that O'Donnell may have her sights set on a future political run.

O'Donnell's "Christine PAC" will be an issues-oriented committee focused taxes, repeal of the national health care overhaul and other matters.

"The focus of my PAC is not necessarily on getting behind individual candidates, but right now, more so issues," O'Donnell told the Wilmington News Journal. "I want to take on projects to help raise awareness about these political issues."

O'Donnell is said to be eyeing a bid against Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who is up for re-election in 2012. She likely would not have an easier time in 2012 than she did in 2010, when she lost to Coons by 17 points in a year when Republicans swept races across the country. (She has run for the Senate three times so far.)

O'Donnell was the keynote speaker Tuesday night at the Northern Virginia Tea Party's annual banquet. At the event, she took aim at President Obama on the possible extension of unemployment insurance, saying that "he's not just creating a culture of dependency but a culture of entitlement."

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | December 9, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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