Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Former Miller Campaign Manager Paul Bauer Reveals How Disagreements Over Campaign Strategy Led To His Departure From The Joe Miller Campaign

A Los Angeles Times article entitled "Lisa Murkowski, Joe Miller ready for drawn-out count in Alaska" offers some interesting insight into the Alaska U.S. Senate campaign, some of which has not yet found its way into the Alaska media. For example, the Times discloses that Lisa Murkowski announced that she had retained attorney Benjamin Ginsberg to head her team overseeing Alaska's upcoming write-in ballot count, which will now begin on November 10th and is expected to last three days. Ginsburg was counsel to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign and played a key role in the 2000 Florida recount. Ginsburg was also involved in the Coleman-Franken recounts in Minnesota. Joining Ginsburg will be Tim McKeever of Washington, D.C., who was Ted Stevens' longtime campaign manager and attorney, and Scott Kendall from McKeever's law firm. Murkowski also said she's starting "the Alaska Voter Protection Fund" to pay for her legal work, and will be soliciting contributions.

The Times also discloses that Joe Miller believes many write-in votes are likely to be successfully challenged. "Previous write-in campaigns in Alaska have demonstrated that as much as five to six percent of returned ballots have not met the standard to be counted as a valid vote," he said in a statement. And the Times also mentions that Alaska Republican Party officials will function as honest brokers and have no plans to go into the ballot count as Murkowski's adversaries. "Getting into battles with the Murkowski camp at this point isn't going to create any more votes for us than it would have [had Miller won]," party spokesman Casey Reynolds said. "So I would imagine we're going to work cordially and professionally with them. Obviously we'll be coordinating with Joe Miller, but from here on in, I would imagine a cordial and professional relationship with the Murkowski campaign."

But most intriguing is information about the circumstances leading to the departure of Paul Bauer as Joe Miller's campaign manager. It now turns out that the famous dustup between Debbie Bauer and Fagan protege Dave Stieren, who got a talk show slot on KFQD with the help of Dan Fagan, may have actually been the straw that broke the camel's back. It appears Paul Bauer may have had disagreements with Miller over campaign strategy which served to grease the skids for Bauer's departure. Here's the key excerpt from the Times article:

Paul Bauer, who ran Miller's primary campaign, said Miller failed to exploit backroom connections between Murkowski and the state's old-guard Republican establishment, and erred by refusing to be more upfront about his own background.

"Joe should have never given her the opportunity to run. After the primary, he should have finished her off," said Bauer, contending that the party establishment gave only pro-forma support to Miller in the general election.

Bauer's disagreements with Miller led to his departure from the campaign and to his replacement by relatively inexperienced managers.

"I tried to tell him many times, 'You might as well go for it'" and take on the party", Bauer said. "But his view was, 'I can't be fighting the party when I'm trying to run an election.' I said, 'the party's already fighting you.'"

Paul Bauer was fired from the campaign on August 13th, 2010. At the time, Miller was in the midst of an historic charge from 40 points back in the polls in late July to victory in the August 24th primary. The momentum continued even after Miller hired Barrow lawyer Robert Campbell as his new campaign manager. Being a retired Army NCO, Bauer, who operates an immigration reform website known as Alaskans for Legal Presence, decided to be a good soldier and said little about his departure, expressing his intent to continue personally supporting Miller.

But it was after the primary that the "death by a thousand cuts" began to be inflicted upon the Miller campaign. Some were self-inflicted. Not a week went by in which there wasn't some sort of unfavorable revelation. The greatest damage to Miller's campaign was inflicted by his refusal to release his Fairbanks Borough personnel records, his refusal to voluntarily disclose the circumstances surrounding his one-time misuse of Borough computers, his temporary embargo of the Alaska media, and, of course, the confrontation between Alaska Dispatch gonzo journalist Tony Hopfinger and a private security firm at the Central Middle School campaign event.

None of these problems happened on Paul Bauer's watch. All of them happened on Robert Campbell's watch. Thus it is not inappropriate to suggest that Robert Campbell, through his inexperience and incompetence, may have unintentionally helped torpedo Miller's chances of election, particularly by providing an incentive for Lisa Murkowski to return through the back door as a write-in candidate. Of course, since Joe Miller was the candidate, the primary responsibility for his loss will be his should he lose. But as I suspected all along, Miller was not getting good advice from his senior campaign staff. It should be noted that Joe Miller himself has not publicly criticized anybody on his staff, however.

The chances of Joe Miller being declared the winner of the Senate race are admittedly not good. Here are the latest numbers:

-- Write-In Votes: 83,201, 40.95 percent
-- Joe Miller (R): 69,762, 34.34 percent
-- Scott McAdams (D): 48,034, 23.64 percent

It is obvious that the overwhelming number of write-in votes are for Lisa Murkowski. How many? Let's say only 90 percent of the write-ins turn out to be for Lisa. That would still leave her with 74,881 votes, over 5,000 ahead of Miller. It's more likely that as many as 95 percent of the write-ins are for Lisa. Alaska election officials have been ambiguous over what would constitute a valid entry.

The fight would be over "voter intent," with the Miller team questioning if a particular write-in vote was meant to be cast for Murkowski or not. The state hasn't been clear on what's allowed. Minor misspellings of Murkowski's name are probably OK, but simply writing "Lisa M," for example, could be an issue. State law calls for voters to fill out the last name of the candidate, or his or her full name as it appears on the candidate's declaration to run. But there will be NO COMPROMISE on the oval. Ballots that include a write-in name but don't have the oval filled in won't be counted, election officials have said. Filling in the oval is a requirement of state law.

Thus it's looking more and more like the only "Miller time" to be found in Alaska will be at The Oaken Keg or The Brown Jug.

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