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

If Alaska Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police MORE 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 SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsJustice Dept. considering replacing outgoing US attorney in Brooklyn with Barr deputy: report Tuberville campaign bus catches fire in Alabama Doug Jones cuts pro-mask campaign ad: 'Our health depends on each other' MORE of Alabama. 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for her,” said Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Senate rejects Paul proposal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP MORE 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 HatchOrrin Grant HatchDACA remains in place, but Dreamers still in limbo Bottom line Bottom line MORE 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 BurrRichard Mauze BurrBiden campaign adds staff in three battleground states Exclusive investigation on the coronavirus pandemic: Where was Congress? Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE 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 McCainJohn Sidney McCainJuan Williams: Time for boldness from Biden Democrats lead in three battleground Senate races: poll Republican Scott Taylor wins Virginia primary, to face Elaine Luria in rematch MORE (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 JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World MORE (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 CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans MORE and Olympia Snowe of Maine did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Murkowski’s Alaska colleague, Democratic Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE, put the chances of a write-in Murkowski campaign at “50-50.” 

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