As Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiDemocrats look for plan B on filibuster Senate will vote on John Lewis voting bill as soon as next week Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter MORE (R-Alaska) makes her write-in bid for Senate official, filing paperwork with state elections officials Wednesday, she faces a new concern — some backers worry that opponents are searching for a way to torpedo her campaign by fielding another write-in candidate with a similar name.
Some independent observers, several state Democrats and at least one Alaska Republican have raised that possibility with The Hill.
The thought is that backers of Republican nominee Joe Miller, the Tea Party favorite who defeated Murkowski in the GOP primary, or even supporters of Democrat Scott McAdams will encourage another "Lisa M." to wage a write-in bid in an effort to confuse voters and throw into question ballots that aren't clearly marked with Murkowski's name.
"I've been waiting for them to do it for the past three weeks," Alaska's Democratic Party Chairwoman Patti Higgins said of the Miller campaign and the various Tea Party groups in the state. "They haven't yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if it's coming."
Murkowski's campaign declined to comment on the possibility, but a source close to the campaign admitted, "We're watching the names that get filed very closely."
The process for declaring as a write-in candidate is relatively simple in Alaska. A candidate can file a letter to the state division of elections declaring his or her intention to run up to five days before Election Day.
And a quick look at Alaska's public phone book reveals plenty of Lisa M's to choose from for anyone trying to convince someone with a similar name to jump into the Senate race.
Before Murkowski declared her write-in bid, the state division of elections indicated it would likely accept a write-in vote for "Lisa M." as intent to vote for Murkowski. But since then, the division has declined to offer any public comment on what it will or will not count as a vote for Murkowski.
It sets the stage for an all-out legal battle between the candidates if there are enough write-in votes to throw the outcome of the election into question.
Murkowski's campaign has engaged in a robust voter-education effort on the ins and outs of the state's write-in process. The campaign isn't taking any chances on the spelling of the senator's name, however, working under the assumption that her full name will have to be spelled properly for the write-in vote to count.
Tea Party Express spokesman Levi Russell told The Hill he has heard of no such efforts to run another “Lisa M.” as a write-in candidate and that his organization wouldn't support any attempt to confuse Alaska voters.
"It just shows how ridiculous [Murkowski's] write-in bid is to begin with that people are even talking about this," Russell said.
The Tea Party Express spent more than $550,000 during the Republican primary to help boost Miller's campaign and is running attack ads against Murkowski during the general-election battle.
The Miller campaign didn’t responded to requests for comment.
Higgins said the possibility of a candidate trying to play the role of write-in spoiler raises another issue that worries Democrats and Republicans in the state — the lack of a clear signal from the state division of elections as to which iterations of Murkowski's name it will accept on a write-in ballot.
"They should have some concrete rule about what they'll accept," she said.
Recent polls have shown mixed results for the senator, but there are difficulties in polling a race with a serious write-in candidate that make it hard to offer any real sense of where Murkowski stands.
Numbers released late last month from Alaska-based pollster Ivan Moore show Murkowski could pose a real threat as a write-in, though. In a ballot question that offered only Miller and McAdams as choices, Miller led with 43 percent to McAdams's 27. And 18 percent of voters volunteered Murkowski's name, unprompted.
Moore followed the initial ballot test question with one that asked respondents whether Murkowski's write-in bid would prompt them to stick with their original ballot choice, or write in Murkowski. Another 31 percent of likely voters said they would write in Murkowski's name.
And a recent poll from Public Policy, conducted for Daily Kos, found Murkowski within two points of Miller. The Republican nominee led with 35 percent of the vote to Murkowski's 33. McAdams was running third, with 26 percent.
But pollsters warn there's likely to be a significant drop-off between those who say they will write in Murkowski's name on Election Day and those who actually do.