[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/16/art.joemiller1.joemiller.jpg caption =" The Tea Party Express will endorse Joe Miller for Senate on Wednesday."]Washington (CNN) - The Tea Party Express endorsed on Wednesday a little known Alaska candidate in a bid to oust an incumbent Republican senator who is part of the Senate GOP leadership.
The group is backing Joe Miller in Alaska's Republican senate primary. In a statement, the Tea Party Express "vows to defeat" Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.
CNN first reported the story, exclusively, on Wednesday.
"The Tea Party Express will make Miller's campaign its top priority between now and the August 24th Alaska Primary, and will devote the resources necessary to ensure Miller's victory," the group said in a statement.
Tea Party Express spokesman Levi Russell told CNN that those resources will include the people and money necessary to help Miller, a Fairbanks lawyer with little name identity in Alaska, topple the popular Murkowski. That campaign will also include television and radio ads and possibly, the group says, a Tea Party Express bus tour across Alaska.
The group will try to "level the playing field" on Miller's behalf, Russell said.
As it attempts to prop up Miller, the group that boasts of defeating Republican lawmakers it deems too moderate, or similar candidates favored by the party, hopes to take down yet another.
"Lisa Murkowski has become part of the problem in Washington," Tea Party Express Political Director Bryan Shroyer said in the group's statement. "Her support for record deficit spending, and her flip-flopping on whether to repeal Obamacare are just two of the many issues in which she has broken trust with the citizens she was elected to represent."
Amy Kremer, the group's Director of Grassroots & Coalitions, went even further, claiming that "Lisa Murkowski has certainly become one of the worst offenders in the GOP."
"Joe Miller is exactly the kind of constitutional conservative we need to help us take our country back," Kremer added.
Miller's campaign website states that he opposes financial bailouts, opposes new entitlement programs and supports repeal of the newly-enacted health care legislation.
Murkowski's campaign is responding to the slams.
In a statement to CNN, Communications Director Steve Wackowski said, "Senator Murkowski's credentials as a conservative are clear; she opposed the Democrat's stimulus bills and voted nine times to repeal parts and the entirety of ObamaCare. Just last week, she led the fight to curtail a massive government encroachment into our economy–the EPA power grab on carbon emissions, which garnered a veto threat from President Obama. She has received "A" ratings from the NRA for her defense of 2nd Amendment rights, opposed raising the debt limit, and voted on five separate occasions to freeze non-defense discretionary spending."
It is unclear what impact the endorsement for Miller will have on his campaign. Tea Party activists have seen some of its congressional candidates lose, such as Chuck Devore in California's GOP Senate primary. And the group is often derided as polarizing and divisive.
Yet some candidates supported by the movement have seen electoral success.
In May, Utah Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was denied a shot at a fourth term after failing to win enough support at the state party convention. Bennett's loss was partly fueled by an anti-Washington, anti-incumbency wave furthered by the Tea Party movement.
And on June 8 in Nevada, Tea Party Express-backed candidate Sharron Angle overcame long odds, beating GOP establishment favorite Sue Lowden and 11 other candidates in the Senate primary. Before the Tea Party Express backed Angle, she badly trailed Lowden in the polls. After the group poured $550,000 into the Nevada race to support Angle, along with assistance from other conservative groups, the candidate sat atop polls just before the primary. The organization now vows to pump in an additional $1 million+ into the race to help Angle defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Saying that Miller is "in lock step with the Tea Party" on many issues, Russell added that the group will "try and do the same thing we did with Angle."