Miller’s vowing to rage against the dying of the light by demanding a hand recount of all ballots, but the numbers simply aren’t there. He trails by more than 10,000 votes with only 8,100 or so write-in ballots challenged plus another 600 overseas ballots to be counted. If he wins all the remaining absentees and succeeds on every challenged write-in — which he won’t — he still needs more than a thousand votes to switch during the hand recount.

I hate the result, but say this for Lila Mezvinsky: She did an amazing job educating her supporters on proper write-in procedures and turning them out on election day. No one’s won a write-in campaign for Senate in more than 50 years, and not only did she pull it off, she did it in Palin’s own backyard against a candidate she personally campaigned for. Reid’s win in Nevada hurt more, but this one is bitterly disappointing.

Her victory became clear when Alaska election officials confirmed they had only about 700 votes left to count, putting Murkowski in safe territory to win re-election.

Murkowski has a lead of about 10,000 votes, a total that includes 8,153 ballots in which Miller observers challenged over things like misspellings, extra words or legibility issues.

Murkowski is flying back to Alaska to address supporters, telling them that the campaign “made history.”

Because Miller’s not within half a point of victory, by state law he’d have to foot the bill for a recount. Is it really worth it at this point? As for Murkowski, I wonder if she’ll stick with the GOP or embrace her status as the new RINO messiah or whatever by going fully independent. If she takes the latter path — possibly to form the nucleus of a new independent Senate caucus with Snowe, Brown, etc, as I described once before — she’d instantly become a national figure. But then she’d also risk being stripped of her Energy Committee position by the GOP, and a senator who promised to bring home the pork to Alaska can’t afford that. The question is, in a chamber where you need 60 votes to pass something, who has more leverage here? McConnell and the GOP or Murkowski, who could threaten to vote with the Democrats if they dared take away her Energy assignment? There’s no happy ending to this one, I’m afraid.

Update: Fred Thompson, who supported Joe Miller in the race, says it’s time to call it a day.