A Tea Party attempt to overcome a mainstream Republican came up short in Alaska last night as former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan won the GOP primary to become his party's candidate to take on Sen. Mark Begich this fall. Sullivan entered the primary the presumed front-runner, with the backing of national GOP power brokers and a huge cash advantage over his rivals, but Tea Party favorite Joe Miller made a late push reminiscent of his 2010 primary upset of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who won the Senate race with a write-in campaign.
The race is important to Republicans nationally because Begich, a first-term incumbent Democrat, is seen as vulnerable and the GOP needs a net gain of six seats to take control of the Senate. Begich easily won his primary yesterday. Former Gov. Sarah Palin, who has had little to do with state-level politics since appointing Sullivan attorney general and resigning in 2009, re-emerged to support an oil tax referendum that also was on the ballot—if successful, it would restore the tax system she championed as governor—and to endorse Miller. (Read more Dan Sullivan stories.)