Almost 90 percent of the first round of write-in ballots were unchallenged votes for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
The Tea Party favorite who might have cost Republicans a Senate seat won't rule out another run for office.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced Wednesday that he signed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new healthcare law.
The announcement is noteworthy for two reasons:
1) Hatch is expected to be the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee next Congress, and that committee played a major role in writing the healthcare legislation. Hatch made headlines last year during the bill-writing process when he quit the gang of seven senators discussing the legislation, saying there were too many aspects of the bill that he couldn't support.
2) Voters signaled their unhappiness with the new law by voting a record number of Democrats out of office last week. Hatch is up for reelection in 2012 and could face a primary challenge from the right. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has said he's thinking about running against the six-term senator. Plus, Hatch saw his home-state colleague, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), lose to a more conservative candidate in the primary process this year.
Hatch was a vocal opponent of the healthcare legislation during the debate process, vowing to "kill" it when it came to the Senate.
In explaining his friend-of-the-court brief, Hatch said: “The $2.6 trillion health law is an astonishing expansion of federal power and busts the limits that the Constitution imposes on the federal government."
A total of 20 states have signed onto the lawsuit, which originated in Florida. In October, a federal judge ruled the lawsuit could proceed. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also filed a friend-of-the-court brief and has urged other Republican senators to join him.
-- This post was updated at 7:46 a.m.
The Tea Party favorite wants a judge to bar the state division of elections from weighing voter intent on write-ins.
Republican Joe Miller nets 318 votes as absentee ballots are counted; the write-in vote count starts Wednesday.
Sen. James Inhofe, one of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate, rejects the idea that poorly vetted Tea Party candidates cost the GOP control of the Senate, as some other Republicans have suggested.
In a phone interview with The Hill, Inhofe derailed as "absolutely false" the argument put forward recently by Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who said in a recent interview with an Alabama newspaper that Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin "cost us control of the Senate" and that Tea Party candidates generally underperformed in Senate races.
"The Senate would be Republican today except for states (in which Palin endorsed candidates) like Christine O'Donnell in Delaware," Bachus said. "Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate."
But Inhofe said the Tea Party movement was an asset.
"I applaud all the Tea Party candidates," he said. "They went the hard way, they did it through hard work and they stood up for the real issues — the debt, the deficit, ObamaCare. Those are the real issues. The Tea Party is the real reason we picked up the seats we did pick up."
Palin pushed back at Bachus in an e-mail to The Daily Caller on Tuesday, saying, "No wonder he’s not thrilled with people like me, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and all the others who also endorsed commonsense conservative candidates.”
West Virginia senator-elect is tamping down speculation that he could leave the Democrats ahead of the 2012 race.
The ballot fight will center on determining voter intent. Absentee ballots are counted Tuesday, write-ins Wednesday.
As it stands now, the number of "write-in" votes cast in Alaska on Election Day leads Joe Miller's vote total by 7 percent.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) urged supporters to contribute to the recount fund of Alaska Republican Joe Miller in an e-mail Friday, warning that Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R-Alaska) legal team "will be fighting to bend the law in Alaska, which requires write-in ballots to accurately state the candidate's name."
In the e-mail message to supporters of DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund, the South Carolina Republican said he's confident Miller can still defeat Murkowski, noting, "there are still tens of thousands of ballots that haven't been counted and there will be a recount to verify the integrity of the write-in ballots."
As it stands now, the "write-in" category leads Miller's vote total by 7 percent. The assumption is that the vast majority of those write-in votes were cast for Murkowski, but Miller's camp is banking on the possibility that many of them could be declared invalid.
In the e-mail, DeMint also took a shot at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, suggesting it's not fully committed to the Republican's looming legal battle.
"The costs associated with maintaining the integrity of this election could be very high, especially if the legal battle goes on for a while," DeMint wrote. "Joe does not have the support of the special interests in Washington and he cannot rely on national Republicans to do everything that's needed to defend him."
Murkowski has assembled a high-powered legal team for the upcoming ballot battle led by Ben Ginsberg, who played a leading role in the Florida recount saga of 2000 on behalf of then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R).
During the general election, DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund bankrolled an ad that attacked Murkowski and Democratic nominee Scott McAdams on abortion. DeMint also urged the Republican Conference in the Senate to oust Murkowski from her top spot on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.