The Final Score: Political Empires Are Crumbling

Alaska, the political pacesetter.

Who would have thunk? Until recently, Alaska's been known for its wilderness and vast spaces...not for trend setting in politics.

But then Sarah Palin exploded on the national political scene, and ever since we began to notice one of the most fascinating political dramas in American history...a drama that's just about to enter a super climax, as a gang of political insiders that have dominated the state for generations are losing out to the people's will.

It's really become a metaphor for what's happening nationwide--where political empires are crumbling state by state. Sarah Palin started the ball rolling when she took on one of the godfathers of the Alaska machine, Frank Murkowski, in the 2006 gubernatorial campaign.

Murkowski was a Republican senator for 20 years, working under the wing of the late Sen. Ted Stevens. Stevens and Murkowski ran the state in close cooperation with oil interests, making some very questionable deals.

When Murkowski became Governor in 2002, he appointed his daughter to the Senate seat he held and put Sarah Palin on the commission that oversees oil and gas drilling in the state. But if he thought Palin could be bought, he was wrong. It wasn't long before Palin had been pushed, shoved, threatened and offered bribes so many times that she couldn't take it anymore.

She ran for governor against Murkowski, exposing in detail all the corrupt wheeling and dealing that was going on. They all denied it, but Sarah had the evidence and was not about to be pushed around. She had the guts to stick to her guns, and of course, she won.

But political machines don't die easily. And now the daughter of the man that Palin defeated for governor, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, is losing to a reformer named Joe Miller, whom Palin endorsed. By taking on the establishment, Mr. Miller is facing some of the same headwinds that Sarah Palin felt four years ago, as Gov. Palin explained Thursday night on Scoreboard:

PALIN: "That put me on the outs of the Republican machine that is still in place today. And Joe Miller is going to have to deal with that too."

He's also going to have to deal with a mainstream media that would love to tear him down as a lightweight. But that's kind of hard to do against a man who graduated from West Point, fought and was decorated in Iraq, graduated from Yale law school and worked as a district and a federal prosecutor. This guy is a heavyweight, in character and experience, and he's up to the same challenge that carried Sarah Palin to the national stage.