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Tilting at Windmills

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September 18, 2010

MURKOWSKI MAKES ALASKA'S SENATE RACE A THREE-WAY CONTEST.... It's been about three weeks since right-wing lawyer Joe Miller stunned the political world, defeating incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska's Republican Senate primary, but it was clear the race wasn't quite settled. Murkowski didn't endorse Miller, and was openly exploring her options.

Last week, reading the tea leaves, Republican leaders on the Hill told Murkowski if she ran against Miller, she would have to resign her post in the party's Senate leadership. Late yesterday, she did just that. Soon after, Murkowski launched a write-in re-election campaign.

"Alaskans deserve a fighter in the United States Senate who will always stand up for Alaska, who understands our great potential, and has the experience, the respect and the seniority to accomplish that," Murkowski said. "I am that Senator."

Murkowski also took a shot at former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, saying she is "one Republican woman who won't quit on Alaska."

She admitted that she did not go after Miller enough in the primary, something the national party had pushed her to do. But she signaled that was about to change.

"We made some mistakes," Murkowski said. "When he swung, I didn't swing back. Well, ladies and gentleman, the gloves are off."

The announcement sets up a three-way contest pitting Murkowski against Miller and Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams. (If one includes Libertarian Party nominee David Haase, it's a four-way race.)

The next question, of course, is trying to guess who might win. A reasonable case can be made for any of them.

Miller, the ostensible front-runner, has the advantage of enjoying the enthusiastic support of the Republican Party in a state where Republicans tend to dominate. Despite a bizarre right-wing ideology and an agenda better suited to the political fringe, polls show Miller leading the pack, though he isn't especially well known statewide, and has fairly high negatives.

Murkowski, meanwhile, has plenty of money still in the bank and universal name recognition. The very nature of write-in campaigns makes success unlikely, but it's not unprecedented. As for difficulties voters might have spelling her name, Alaska's elections secretary "is prepared to take a fairly liberal interpretation of voter intent. Ballots that misspell Ms. Murkowski's surname would probably be counted, for instance, and so might ballots that identified her by her given name (e.g. 'Lisa M.')."

As for McAdams, it's very difficult for a Democrat to win statewide in Alaska, especially in a year that looks to be very favorable for Republicans. But Murkowski's effort almost certainly improves his chances, at least a little, by raising the specter of splitting the conservative vote. The last major three-way race in Alaska -- 1994's gubernatorial race -- propelled Tony Knowles (D) to victory.

In a year like this one, anything's possible.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (9)

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This should not be hard, Alaska has less than 500,000 people which means about 200,000 registered voters. Lisa M could easily send each voter 10 pieces of targeted mail in the next few weeks... Starting NOW... The commercials could start the next day....

Heck, $10 per voter could bring great results. Jack the Ripper could win under those circumstances.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on September 18, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Wasn't the 2006 governor's race a three-candidate contest?

Posted by: Chris G. on September 18, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

". But Murkowski's effort almost certainly improves his chances, at least a little, by raising the specter of splitting the conservative vote."

I wwould have thought the opposite: It reduces the sane Republican and independent vote McAdam might otherwise have won.

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Ah wanna right inn mah vot fore L. Amerikowsky the Pee Tardy cand, uhm, candydate.

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Posted by: gaga94 on September 18, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

She admitted that she did not go after Miller enough in the primary, something the national party had pushed her to do.

Nothing the Republican party hates more than democracy.

Posted by: Danp on September 18, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

I see either a win by Murkowski or McAdams as a win for us because it will be a repudiation of the TPers. If Lisa wins, she will probably not be too cozy with the Repub leaders. If we can defeat enough of the TP candidates this season, I think they will quit and go back home.

Posted by: sceptic on September 18, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

I swear, I just don't get this.

So Murkowski has a long-standing blood feud with Palin. So Palin leverages some of the TP angst that she helped create to boot Murkowski from the Senate. So Murkowski is now even madder at Palin. This much I understand.

But what does Murkowski gain from this? She's not going to win, because even setting aside the odds of a write-in campaign winning a contested election, she can't expect Democrats to vote for her. She's not that kind of Republican primary loser--this isn't Olympia Snowe we're talking about, where she has some crossover appeal. She's a right-wing Republican who lost to a righter-winger Republican, end of story. She's toast.

Now, you might say, fine, she's just sticking it in Palin's eye by running a spoiler campaign--a suicidal fuck-you. That would have made sense if she were an octogenarian fifth-termer with an actual legacy. But she's not, and frankly anyone with the last name Murkowski actually has a lot to lose by committing political suicide. She's already had to resign her leadership positions in the national GOP, and I don't think she's making any friends by endangering Palin's boy, even if the GOP leadership would rather forget the TP.

What's the upside for Murkowski here? Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled she's doing it, but I think we're seeing her slit her own throat in slow motion, and for no good reason.

Posted by: Matt on September 18, 2010 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Mike makes some good points. Let's say she is re-elected [I know, its longshot]. She had to resign from senate repub. leadership roles; she is basically sticking a big fat eye in the repub. senate committee, etc. Then what? She aligns with Joe L?

Further, I know that nutters have been in the senate [remember Steve Symms? Paula Hawkins?] but - how do the few remaining sensible repubs - Lugar, Snowe, etc. work with these clowns? I know I am biased, but there just isn't the range of crazy on the demo. side. It really is a testament to the lack of moral thinking on the part of Snowe, etc... to stay aligned with these nutjobs.

Posted by: bigutah on September 18, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK



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