JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — For Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the odds of winning a write-in campaign to keep her job would be exceedingly long and the personal political stakes just as high.
Yet despite the glaring challenges, Alaska's senior senator has been weighing her options since her surprising GOP primary loss to tea party-backed Joe Miller. Since conceding less than two weeks ago, Murkowski has been besieged by supporters urging her to find a way to stay in race, which would include a possible write-in bid or a third-party run as a Libertarian.
Murkowski could announce a decision as early as next week, and could simply decide to get out of the race.
If she chooses the write-in path, she'd be fighting history: Though Alaska politicians have tried the route before, none that historians and elections officials can think of has ever pulled off a winning write-in campaign.
Beyond that is the fact that Murkowski has lost support from the Republican establishment, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which now supports Miller, committing more than $212,000 to his first statewide run for public office and planning a fundraiser for him in Washington.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also is backing Miller.
"This is a Republican seat. We have every confidence it's going to remain a Republican seat, and we want to demonstrate our commitment to keeping it a Republican seat," committee spokesman Brian Walsh said Thursday. "We are firmly behind Joe Miller, regardless of what may or may not happen" with Murkowski.
Miller also reiterated his call for party solidarity Thursday, urging Murkowski to "join her colleagues in endorsing me, and ensure that America's loyal opposition to the president's agenda will have a voice in the United States Senate from Alaska."
Murkowski has widespread name recognition, and if she were to mount a write-in bid, State Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said her name would not have to be spelled precisely — so long as voter intent can be determined. However, each ballot would have to be taken on a case-by-case basis.
Murkowski has said that if this was "all about Lisa, certainly the easy thing for me to do would be to figure out what my next opportunity would be with my family and just settle in to a nice job. But what I'm looking at is my state and the future of my state for my kids."
Murkowski has acknowledged the high risk involved in staying in the race. There are no guarantees: Will those same people urging her to run actually show up to vote for her? If she stays in, will she face a backlash from voters who think she should have accepted her fate in the primary? Will she be able to breathe new life into a campaign that's been through an emotional wringer?
"On the plus side, and what enhances the opportunity for Sen. Murkowski, is both Miller and (Democrat Scott) McAdams are untried and that will weigh on voters as they go to the polls," University of Alaska Anchorage history professor Steve Haycox said. "And maybe that opens the door for her."
The way Haycox sees it, should Murkowski stay in the race she needs to be confident in her chances of winning. "I think the thing that would operate the most on her mind is: How would it look to mount this campaign and lose?"
Particularly when it comes to a write-in candidacy, he said, "it's a steep, steep uphill climb . . . and winning is just highly problematic."
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