Big news from the GOP Senate debate: Miller will not run as third-party candidate.

Probably the biggest news that came out of Thursday night’s Senate GOP primary debate was that Joe Miller said that he would “without a doubt,” support which ever candidate wins the primary.

“We’ve got to get rid of Begich. There’s no question about it,” a surprisingly amiable Miller said at the debate, which was moderated by KTUU’s Steve MacDonald. It was the last debate before the primary on Tuesday. KTUU is the state’s largest television station.

Up until now, unlike Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell, the two other candidates in the race, Miller has declined to answer that question. When asked, he repeatedly segued back to the two candidates’ support of Lisa Murkowski when she lost to him in the 2010 GOP primary.

That’s led some to speculate that he would run as a third-party candidate were he to lose the primary. Miller has a relatively small but extremely passionate following. It’s a following that appears to be growing as he continues to win debates—as he did tonight—and continues to run a smooth campaign. For all of his bungles in 2010, he’s emerged a natural politician, and he’s done so without compromising his basic, arch-conservative principles.

If Miller were to make that third-party challenge, he would no doubt bring enough of his followers with him that it would likely guarantee Mark Begich’s reelection. As it is, his support will probably translate into at least a 5 percent-point gain for the GOP nominee. These are people who would have likely stayed home in November, said Marc Hellenthal, a long-time Anchorage-based political pollster, who isn’t working for any Senate candidate.

Some have speculated that Miller decided against a third-party run because he actually likes Dan Sullivan, the front-runner, who has consistently been ahead in the polls and who appears to be on track to win on Tuesday. They are both military men and, unlike Treadwell, they have steered clear of using Democratic attack lines against each other.

“I think that if they were sitting in a bar together, they would have a good time,” Hellenthal said about Miller and Sullivan. “I don’t think that’s true with Treadwell. It would be awkward,” he said.

And that awkwardness wouldn’t get any better after tonight. Treadwell called a recent inflammatory mailing sent out by Joe Miller about gun rights and immigration “racist.” It’s a comment that is not going to do anything to soothe tensions between the two, tensions which have appeared to escalate as the election season has gone on.  Miller appeared taken aback by the comment.  He accused Treadwell of buying into arguments from the left.

The accusation certainly won’t go down well with the tea party crowd–which has been debating the mailer. It’s a crowd that Treadwell has spent most of his campaign trying to cultivate.

Miller may indeed like Sullivan, but given that Miller is nothing if not wily, there’s likely some political calculation in his move. Some have speculated that Miller is setting himself up to run against Murkowski or Young in 2016, and he needs to show his allegiance to his party.

Mike Coons, former head of the Conservative Patriots Group and an ardent conservative Valley activist, is relieved. “Good,” he said when he heard the news. “I support Joe, no question. But we need unity,” he said.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


18 thoughts on “Big news from the GOP Senate debate: Miller will not run as third-party candidate.

  1. Ron

    When has he ever explained Stand your Ground, or his Fishing License problem. Haha, or, oh gosh… do you not get it?

    Let me break this down step by step for you.

    (A). Dan Sullivan moved to Alaska in 1997 when he first went fishing at Julie’s fish camp…
    (B). Dan Sullivan got his first fishing license in 2009, as highlighted by the democrats
    (C). Dan Sullivan went fishing without a license from 1997 until 2002. For five years Dan Sullivan has no record of communicating with Fish and Game. If he went hunting or fishing, it was all done illegally.

    Does that not seem like a problem to you, Rinos? You all rallied behind fishing licenses when it came to defeating Joe in 2010 when you wanted Lisa to remain in office so badly, but you ignore it now? Hypocrites!

  2. Effie

    KTUU’s format was the best I’ve seen this cycle. I was shocked with the news that Miller would not run as a third party candidate if he faiiled to be the GOP nominee. Kudos to Steve McDonald for getting Miller on the record. All said, I think the GOP senate primary will be very close with all three candidates running within a few points of each other. Sen. Begich and his Democratic superPAC friends have done all they could to influence the GOP primary. In a few short days, we’ll see if they were successful.

  3. Doyon shareholder

    I have thought about voting for either Begich or Sullivan. Last night’s debate, I would say was a toss-up between Sullivan and Miller. Actually, on pure debate skills, Miller was best; however, he is too conservative for me. Treadwell seems to border on mental instability. So, we’re back to Begich or Sullivan. My conclusion: Dan Sullivan looked like and conducted himself like a US Senator. We need someone who will stand up for AK and say no to Obama. Sorry Mark. You had six years and were a disappointment. If you are like me and want someone other than Begich, there is one choice: Dan Sullivan.

  4. Grace

    Treadwell’s performance was desperate, despicable and disgusting. My only explanation for hiis behavior is that he must be a schill for Begich.
    He entered the race with a certain percentage of support and now has about 2% less, he has attracted little support and can’t inspire people to contribute to his campaign. His campaign does one thing – – HELPS BEGICH. I will never support this scum bag for anuthing in the future.

  5. Garand Fellow

    I am completely comfortable with Afghan Dan’s answers about stand your ground legislation. And I never criticize anyone who is at first thoughtful about legislation and looks for ways to improve it.

    What I really want to know is where Begich is on stand your ground. My bet is that he will bob and weave to a degree that honors Bill Clinton – to paraphrase; “Well, it all depends upon your definition of ground and what stand means.” Why don’t the media ask Mark Begich – even one time – about stand your ground.

  6. Jon K

    Ron, looks like facts to you, while interesting, are entirely irrelevant. I’m not sure how many more times Dan has to explain his role on stand your ground and how many more times he needs to explain the fishing license. This stuff isn’t complicated.

  7. Garand Fellow

    My view is that Miller won this debate as he has won every one I have seen in person or watched on television, perhaps 5 or 6 in all. But Joe cannot beat Begich. Much of the media, especially left of center ADN and far left Public Broadcasting, would tirelessly try to scare us about Joe. They would tell us he would embarrass Alaska if elected, and we seem to be sensitive to that. By the week before the election they would be telling us Joe is a racist. The Left knows no limits.

    So Afghan Dan has to win on Tuesday or else Begich wins in November in my view. Dan cannot possibly be as bad a Begich, and Dan won’t support Obama. Dan won’t align himself with Bloomberg’s efforts to take out guns. I have known lots of US Marines and I have never ever been double-crossed by one. Every Alaskan should work hard on the Sullivan campaign from now until November!

  8. Ron

    (1.) The point of having debates is to get people to decide that they’ll vote for you, and in that regard Miller took first place. There have been so many people who want to vote for Joe, but would not have since they thought he was out for personal gain. He set that aside as Amanda reported, although I believe that it was a strategic move more than a knee-jerk emotional response.
    (2.) . If we keep this goal in mind, Dan did not come in first. Dan did not come in 2nd. Dan Sullivan didn’t answer Joe’s Stand your Ground question, and he didn’t answer Mead’s salmon question. It’s fine, I get it, those of you who’ve made up your mind, there’s no convincing you. But to those who haven’t, we can all agree that our goal is to beat Mark, emotionality aside. What happens when Mark expands upon the narratives he defined Dan with:
    (A). Dan’s residency & Fishing License issues. The inconstancy, sure fine, whatever – blow it off – but the lack of having a license at all until 2009 when there are pictures of him fishing before that…that’s going to be a huge problem. And Murkowski won’t be there to save us from our new Joe Miller.
    (B). The Stand your Ground Issue. Guys, he’s lying. There’s no way around this. Mark Neuman’s undated letter that never directly mentions Sullivan’s involvement with Stand your Ground won’t stop Mark from slamming him day and night on tv.

    See, Dan can get away with this stuff now, because his opponents don’t have a microphone big enough to call him out on it. Mark will not have the same difficulties, and if we’re trying to better our state, why are we picking the guy with obvious inconsistencies. I urge you to please vote for Joe or Mead on August 19th, they might not have what Dan has MONEY, but they’re also not going screw up our chances against Mark.

  9. Twig

    The Channel 2 debate this evening was well organized and enlightening. I thought it was the most professional and interesting of the ones I saw this year. The moderator did an excellent job. Overall, I would declare Miller the winner of tonight’s debate. Sullivan had a few solid moments, especially his commentary on the state’s energy situation and his closing arguments. Treadwell’s performance tonight is best described as desperate and despicable. His personal attack on Miller was unjustified and his attacks on Sullivan were repeats of Begich’s attacks. My estimation of Miller’s character grew considerably this election cycle while Treadwell’s character rating in my eyes declined. Sullivan grew on me almost daily during this campaign. I agree with that Miller and Sullivan share a mutual respect.

  10. Ben

    I couldn’t agree more with Mark Helenthal’s comment which I also thought was hilarious.
    My GOP primary prediction:
    First place : Dan Sullivab
    Second place: Joe Miller
    Third place: Mead Treadwell

    Personally, I think Sullivan is best positioned to defeat Begich. Vote Sullivan

  11. Jon K

    Kevin, Amanda’s point seems plausible to me. What’s your explanation for why Miller apparently had a change of heart?

  12. Frank

    I too watched the debate. Thought that Miller and Sullivan finished the race strong and respectfully. Words cannot describe how disappointed I was with Treadwell. He appeared to be an angry, hateful old man. He attacked Miller and Sullivan with what appeared to be a page right out of Begich’s playbook. In fact, with Treadwell flip flopping on the issues like he does, I wouldn’t be surprised if he changed party affiliations and supported Begich. Miller and Sullivan ran respectable and good races. They will either win or lose with dignity. Unfortunately, Treadwell lost his dignity in this race months ago.

  13. admin

    Kevin: Yeah, well, there’s all sorts of speculation. I don’t write about them all. Just ones that feel right to me.

  14. Kevin

    Some have speculated that Miller decided against a third-party run because he actually likes Dan Sullivan, the front-runner, who has consistently been ahead in the polls and who appears to be on track to win on Tuesday. They are both military men and, unlike Treadwell, they have steered clear of using Democratic attack lines against each other.

    It’s incredible what you’ve been able to infer from some who have speculated.

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