Tepid GOP support for write-in Murkowski bid

The prospect of an independent reelection bid by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was met with uncertainty Monday by several Senate Republicans, who said they were reluctant to back their longtime colleague.

Murkowski, who lost Alaska’s GOP primary contest to challenger Joe Miller last month, is said to be considering a write-in candidacy for the general election.

As they returned to the Senate on Monday, Republicans unanimously expressed regret at Murkowski’s loss but refused to say they would support her as an independent candidate. Several simply dodged the question by saying they like Murkowski but that she herself hasn’t made the decision yet.

“I’ll support the nominee of the party,” said Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the 2008 GOP presidential nominee. “I’ve already called Joe Miller and told him that I respect the party’s decision.”

“I’m very supportive of her — I think a lot of her, and I’m very sorry about what happened,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah). “On the other hand, the voters have spoken.”

“As tough as that is, that’s the reality,” added Sen. Mike Johanns (Neb.).

“It’s important to elect Republicans, so it would be tough to support a third-party candidate,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.).

“I like Lisa Murkowski, but I’m going to support the ticket,” added Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.). “She ran in the primary, and she didn’t win the primary. I would hope she would support the ticket.”

Murkowski lost her primary to Miller by a 51-49 percent on Aug. 24. Miller was backed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who said recently that a write-in Murkowski candidacy would be “futile.” Miller has said he doubts Murkowski will make the effort, saying that she has previously committed not to do so.

A Murkowski spokesman last week said the senator was “very much” considering the option.

Murkowski’s colleague, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, put the chances of a write-in Murkowski campaign at “50-50.” Begich said he talked to Murkowski after the primary a few weeks ago, but not since then.

“It’s tough in Alaska, because there’s no other choice but to run as a write-in [candidate],” Begich said.