WASILLA -- An energized Joe Miller on Monday officially kicked off his campaign -- the "Liberty Launch," as he called it -- a Patriot's Day spectacle filled with roaring supporters, country music and staunch support from the Gun Owners of America, an increasingly influential gun-rights lobby that makes the National Rifle Association look soft.
Tim Macy, a longtime board member of the Gun Owners of America who had flown up from California for the event, said his staff has been tracking Miller for years without his knowing it, in order to determine if he's a true believer in gun rights and protecting the Second amendment.
He is, said Macy. "There are plenty of candidates who will vote right most of the time. That's not what we're looking for. We're looking for the Ted Cruzes, the Mike Lees, the Rand Pauls," and, finished some in the audience, "the Joe Millers!"
"That's why I'm here, for the Joe Millers," Macy continued. "And believe me, in every election there's only one or two, one or two candidates that are the real deal. You guys are here tonight for the real deal."
Miller -- trying to beat out a couple of heavyweights in the Republican primary, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former state attorney general Dan Sullivan, before he attempts to trounce Democratic Sen. Mark Begich -- will need all the help he can get from Alaskans, including financially, said Macy.
So far, that financial support has appeared limited, at least in terms of donations. Miller's campaign recently touted a jump in fundraising, noting that in the first quarter of the year, Miller pulled in $101,000, a tripling from the previous quarter. But a closer look at Miller's newly public Federal Elections Commission report showed that only $37,000 of the listed contributions came from a small pool of 31 Alaska donors.
The rest came from Outsiders, presumably those smitten with Miller's anti-government, pro-Constitution, Tea Party leanings that include unflinching calls to abolish the IRS and the education department, return power to the states, and to destroy Obamacare.
But there was plenty of love for Miller in the small Wasilla Lake Resort, where more than 200 people packed into a small stage room to watch "liberty" lift off.
There was a short video on the flat-screen TVs around the room -- complete with soaring music -- of Miller's upbringing in Kansas and his service in Desert Storm that led him to receive a Bronze Star. There was Lars Larson, a conservative talk show host from Portland, Ore., who interviewed Miller on Monday for Larson's nationally syndicated show.
There was live singing and loud recorded music, including a twangy tune written by a supporter from Kansas and featuring the lyrics: "When Alaska needs anything done, they say get Joe to do it, Joe Miller's the one."
There were scattered conversations about God in the audience -- giving the event a revivalist feel at times. There was an opening prayer and supporting statement for Miller from a pastor at a Big Lake church, Ethan Hansen, who said to occasional amens and applause that an "alternative lifestyle" is an attack upon marriage and therefore God and "It's not just a fetus. It's a child."
And of course, there was Joe Miller, who took the stage with his wife and four of his eight children, as the crowd chanted: "Go Joe! Go Joe!"
This was in part the charming Miller, the one willing to poke fun at past events that led to the implosion of his effort in 2010 to unseat Sen. Lisa Murkowski, including the handcuffing of Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger by a security guard working for Miller.
"They're all martial arts experts," he said, turning to his four children on the stage. "We learned after the 2010 race we needed in-house security. So I don't need to bring my handcuffs anymore."
On a serious note, he said "death panels are a reality," and that the federal government needs to get out of owning land it can't control -- with a reference to the recent clash in Nevada between a rancher and the Bureau of Land Management. Speaking forcefully, he said Obama should be impeached for acting outside the rule of law when it comes to Obamacare and telling Congress that he'll take action on certain issues if they don't act.
"I've had enough with the surveillance state," he continued. "I've had enough when the tyrannical IRS thinks it can use its agency to do anything it wants to the likes of us. I'm up to my eyeballs with the EPA. All you have to do is say Chicken, Alaska, and you know where I stand on this issue."