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Murkowski concedes GOP Senate race in Alaska

By Shannon Travis and Paul Steinhauser, CNN
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Sen. Lisa Murkowski drops out of race
  • Republican Murkowski didn't see possible victory
  • Joe Miller, a little-known attorney, wins the nomination
  • Miller received support from Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express

Anchorage, Alaska (CNN) -- Call it another major victory for the Tea Party movement - and Sarah Palin.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska conceded Tuesday night to Tea Party-backed candidate Joe Miller in the state's Republican Senate primary.

"We know that we still have outstanding votes to count in this primary, but based on where we are right now, I don't see a scenario where the primary will turn out in my favor," Murkowski told reporters in Anchorage. "I am now conceding the race for the Republican nomination."

She said she informed Miller of her decision, but didn't endorse him at her news conference and did not take questions from reporters.

According to unofficial results from the August 24 primary, Murkowski trailed Miller by 1,668 votes.

Tuesday, election officials began counting the thousands of absentee ballots, early votes, and questioned ballots that had yet to be tabulated. But by the end of counting Tuesday, Murkowski still trailed Miller by more than 1,600 votes.

Video: Miller pulls off upset in Alaska primary
  • Lisa Murkowski
  • Joe Miller
  • Alaska

"We started from a handful of people knowing who we were and what we stood for to now being the Republican Party nominee," Miller said in a statement released by his campaign.

Miller, a little-known attorney and a graduate of West Point and Yale Law School, was boosted by the endorsement and support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and by the backing of the Tea Party Express. Arguably the country's most high-profile national Tea Party organization, the group spent nearly $600,000 assisting Miller's campaign.

"[Sarah Palin] was right in her proclamation that Joe Miller was a first-rate candidate who offered a vision for the future of this country and how to return America to the right track," the Tea Party Express said in a statement.

In early June, Palin -- the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee -- endorsed Miller, putting statements on her Facebook page and Twitter feed. In endorsing him, Palin said at that time that there was no "feud or bad blood" between herself and Murkoswki, but their differences have been well-documented. Palin captured the governorship in 2006 after defeating then-Gov. Frank Murkowski, Lisa's father, in that year's Republican primary. And when Palin quit as governor last summer, Murkowski said she was "deeply disappointed" and accused Palin of abandoning the state.

In the weekend before the primary, a recording of Palin urging Alaskans to vote for Miller was blasted to Republican voters across the state.

Miller acknowledged the support he received, saying, "I need to thank others who provided vital support to this campaign including Governor Sarah Palin, Governor Mike Huckabee, and the Tea Party movement."

Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate, also endorsed Miller and provided support.

Miller becomes the fifth Republican candidate with serious backing and support by Tea Party activists to capture a GOP Senate nomination. The others are Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sharron Angle of Nevada, Mike Lee of Utah and Ken Buck of Colorado.

Murkowski becomes the third incumbent senator to be ousted in the primary process this cycle, joining Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Republican Bob Bennett of Utah.

Although it backed Murkowski, since she was the incumbent Republican senator, the national party is now getting behind Miller.

"The NRSC is committed to doing everything that we can in order to ensure Joe Miller's victory this November, and I have no doubt that he will be elected as the next U.S. Senator from Alaska," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

It appears Miller will also get assistance from the Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative organization that endorses and contributes to Republican candidates.

"We look forward to helping Joe Miller win in November, and helping him straighten out the Senate and the Republican Party once he gets here," said the group's chairman, former Rep. Chris Chocola.

Miller is now considered the odds-on favorite in the November general election against Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, the Democratic nominee.

CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby contributed to this report.