Attorney Joe Miller (R) is leading Sen. Lisa Murkoswki (R-Alaska) in early returns for Alaska's Republican senate nomination.

The race is too close to call, and Miller is only up by less 3,000 votes. It could end up in a recount.

Murkowski wasn't initially expected to face a strong challenge in 2010, but Miller's campaign got an early jolt from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express.

The Tea Party Express dropped more than $500,000 on TV and radio ads to aid Miller's campaign. He also had the backing of Palin and of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, both rumored presidential contenders in 2012.

Palin, who endorsed Miller in June, recorded a last-minute robocall for the campaign that went out to voters Monday. She also posted a fundraising appeal on her Facebook page Monday trumpeting Miller's efforts to raise $30,000 for a late TV buy. While Palin did not campaign with him, she did tweet early Wednesday morning, before the race was called: “Keeping fingers crossed, powder dry, prayers upward.”

It's hard to accuse Murkowski of being caught flat-footed by the challenge, though. Given 2010's brutal anti-incumbent environment, Murkowski took Miller seriously, spending more than $2 million on the primary.