Last night, Fox News reported that Lisa Murkowski, defeated in the Republican primary for US Senate in Alaska, would mount an independent campaign for the seat against her GOP opponent Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams. Murkowski cited a tremendous amount of support from Alaskans as a motivating factor should she decide to run, which she could only do as a write-in candidate at this stage, unless she could convince the Libertarian Party to give her their ballot line. Last month the executive board of the Libertarian Party rejected the notion, but Murkowski met with the Libertarian candidate, David Haase, on Tuesday.
A senior official in Murkowski’s camp told Fox News that he “fully expects” Murkowski to launch a write-in candidacy, though she is still open to a Libertarian Party ticket run. However, the official could not offer any timetable for an announcement, noting that she could still decide to retire.
“She’s keeping her own counsel on this one. As far as I know, she’s told no one,” the aide said.
Another source also said he expects the senator to launch a write-in candidacy and could announce her plans on Friday. Others had expected Murkowski to make an announcement on Wednesday; instead she attended a funeral in Juneau.
What’s notable here is not necessarily whether or not Murkowski runs; it’s the ferocity with which the Republicans have already struck back at a member of the leadership team in the Senate. Not only have they openly expressed their opposition to Murkowski running (even though polls show it would make McAdams less likely to win, not more), not only have the top PACs already started donating to Joe Miller, but Roll Call reports that Murkowski would have to give up her leadership position if she persists:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) will likely be forced out of her party leadership position should she decide to launch a write-in or third-party candidacy, a Senate Republican said Wednesday [...]
Although Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other GOP leaders have not yet formally discussed what to do if Murkowski does run, the Senate Republican said there is likely no scenario in which she would be allowed to remain Republican Conference vice chairwoman.
According to this source, Murkowski could simply resign her position, or McConnell and other leaders could press her to resign. The conference could also formally vote to strip Murkowski of her leadership mantle.
All the sources are anonymous, which is a bit cowardly, but none of them equivocated whatsoever. “She’s an adult. She lost the race,” said one senior GOP aide.
Now, if Murkowski actually does this and wins, she would likely be welcomed back into the Republican caucus, especially if the numbers in the Senate are close. It would be interesting to see what would happen with her seniority and her Natural Resources Committee chairmanship. But clearly, the Republican leadership is trying to force her out of the race right now, and going public with it to boot.
And think back to 2006. Not only did no member of the Democratic leadership even think about stripping Joe Lieberman of his seniority when he lost his primary, but several Senators openly supported his third-party run. And Ned Lamont’s support from the party and the Senate leadership was tepid at best.
It’s the old story. National Republicans are either afraid of their base or a part of it, and either way they openly align with it; National Democrats are contemptuous of theirs.