Senators won’t back defeated Murkowski in write-in campaign

If Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski attempts a write-in bid to keep her seat in the November election — and she will decide by Friday — her Senate GOP colleagues will not support it.

Several Republican senators told The Hill this week they are backing primary winner Joe Miller, an attorney who shocked the political establishment with his Aug. 24 victory over Murkowski, 51 percent to 49. 

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“I’m a big fan of Lisa’s, but I usually go with the primary winner,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for her,” said Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

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

A Murkowski spokesman has said the incumbent is “very much” considering a write-in bid, her only option for the general election. In a statement Tuesday night, the senator said she would "continue to seek advice from my fellow Alaskans about what is best for the state's future and announce a decision by Friday."

Some GOP senators said they doubted Murkowski would make the effort at all.

“I don’t think there’s any way for her to win,” said Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina.

Murkowski was absent from the Senate for the second straight day on Tuesday; spokesman Michael Brumas said she would return on Wednesday. Brumas said Murkowski spent Monday on “personal business,” but declined to elaborate.

Appointed to the seat in 2002 by her father, then-Gov. Frank Murkowski, the incumbent senator won a full six-year term in 2004 and has risen to become ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee — a critical position, given the industry’s impact on Alaska.

Miller was backed in the primary by former Gov. Sarah Palin (R), who recently dubbed a Murkowski write-in campaign “futile.” Miller has said he doubts Murkowski will wage one, saying she previously committed not to.

A Libertarian candidate is already on the ballot, meaning that an Independent write-in effort would be Murkowski’s only way to win.

"Advisors and friends had urged me to find a way to get my name printed on the ballot at all costs," Murkowski said in her statement. "However, after meeting with the Libertarian candidate last week and considering that option, I cannot in good conscience seek the Libertarian nomination. As disappointed as I am in the outcome of the Primary and my belief that the Alaska Republican Party was hijacked by the Tea Party Express, an outside extremist group, I am not going to quit my party. I will not wrap myself in the flag of another political party for the sake of election at any cost."

But other Republicans also distanced themselves from a Murkowski write-in bid.

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

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

“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.”

Support from GOP centrists remains a possibility; the offices of Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Murkowski’s Alaska colleague, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, put the chances of a write-in Murkowski campaign at “50-50.” 

This post was last updated at 7:59 p.m.