Poll: Palin not the 'driving force' in Alaska Senate primary

A new Public Policy poll offers some reason to doubt former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's (R) impact on Alaska's Republican Senate primary. 

Palin endorsed Tea Party-backed Joe Miller (R), and the candidate credited her with his strong showing against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) last Tuesday. Miller is clinging to a lead of less than 2,000 votes as the counting of some 24,000 remaining ballots is about to get under way in Anchorage.  

But the poll found only 15 percent of those who voted for Miller called Palin's endorsement "very important" in determining their vote choice. A full 59 percent said Palin's backing of Miller didn't matter at all.

The more pressing factor appears to be concern among Alaska Republicans that the party is moving too far to the left. The poll found 47 percent of primary voters labeled Murkowski "too liberal." Among that group, 85 percent voted for Miller.  

"Joe Miller's victory was driven by conservatives who think their party and more specifically Lisa Murkowski have gotten too liberal," pollster Tom Jensen writes. "Tea Party identification in Alaska is actually not that high, but Miller's advantage with that group was so overwhelming it gave him the win. Palin's endorsement certainly helped Miller, and it's unlikely he could have won without it, but it doesn't appear to have been the driving force in his upset."

Of course the upset isn't complete just yet. The Murkowski camp is still holding out hope that thousands of yet to be counted absentee ballots will close the gap with Miller.