Joe Miller's surprise win over Lisa Murkowski in Alaska's GOP Senate primary was partly credited to the endorsement that the tea party insurgent netted from Sarah Palin. But now Miller may be on the outs with Palin -- or at least with her husband, Todd -- according to a leaked email exchange that suggests that the Palin team is already closely monitoring talk of her potential 2012 presidential run.
A local political blog in Alaska, the Mudflats, got its hands on an angry email apparently sent from Todd Palin to Miller last month, after the GOP Senate nominee was less than enthusiastic in his appraisal of a possible Sarah Palin 2012 presidential bid.
In a Sept. 19 interview with Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace, Miller was asked if Palin was "qualified to be president." "That's not my role to comment on those candidates," Miller replied. That answer did not sit well with Todd Palin, who apparently fired off an email that morning to Miller and Palin advisers Tim Crawford and Thomas Van Flein.
"Hold off on any letter for Joe," Todd Palin wrote. "Sarah put her ass on the line for Joe and yet he can't answer a simple question ' is Sarah Palin Qualified to be President'. I DON'T KNOW IF SHE IS.
"Joe, please explain how this endorsement stuff works, is it to be completely one sided.
"Sarah spent all morning working on a Face Book post for Joe, she won't use it, not now.
"Put yourself in her shoe's Joe for one day."
Miller forwarded the email to staffers on Sept. 22; it appears to have been leaked to the Mudflats from the Miller camp. "This is what we are dealing with," Miller wrote in his forwarding note. "Note the date and complete misconstruction of what I said. Holy cow."
You can read a copy of the mail, courtesy of the Mudflats, below:
Neither the Miller campaign or the Palin camp is denying the authenticity of the emails. In a statement to the Weekly Standard's Matt Continetti, Todd Palin downplayed the flap. "My family has worked hard in supporting Joe Miller, so when I heard he'd said something less than supportive of my wife's efforts, I responded," Todd Palin's statement says. "But it turns out we'd gotten our wires crossed and Joe hadn't said anything like what I'd been told. So there's no story here except the fact that the press put our personal emails online again."
The Palin side reportedly believes that Miller staffers friendly to Mike Huckabee, a potential 2012 presidential rival, are responsible for the leak.
It's worth noting that Miller didn't alter his position on a 2012 Palin endorsement after Todd Palin's email. On Sept. 23, the day after he'd forwarded the email, the Alaska GOP nominee was asked again about Palin's 2012 chances by Fox News's Neil Cavuto. "There are a lot of great candidates out there. ... Certainly Palin is at the top of that ticket," Miller said. "But … this is not a race about Palin."
[Rewind: Meghan McCain speaks out against Palin]
Is this a sign that Palin really is running in 2012? Maybe. But it's a bigger indication of how closely involved Todd Palin is in protecting his wife's image. Todd, nicknamed the "First Dude" when Palin was governor of Alaska, has maintained a laid-back image on the campaign trail, usually preferring to talk about his times as a championship snowmobile racer than about politics. But the Miller emails hint that Todd Palin is not exactly a wallflower when it comes to plotting the course of his wife's political career -- and that he's willing to play the role of enforcer, if necessary.
(Photo of Todd and Sarah Palin by Mark Hirsch/Getty Images)