Murkowski Camp Hints She May Re-enter Race

Murkowski Camp Hints She May Re-enter Race

By Scott Conroy - September 7, 2010

In another potentially stunning twist in the Alaska Senate race, the campaign manager for defeated incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski indicated to RealClearPolitics on Tuesday that Murkowski may run as a third-party or write-in candidate in the general election.

Amid new reports that Murkowski has reached out to the Alaska Libertarian Party over a possible deal that could keep her on the ballot after her primary defeat to Joe Miller, Murkowski's campaign manager John Bitney told RealClearPolitics on Tuesday, "If she wants to stay in the race, I'll support her 100 percent."

Reached by phone from Murkowski's campaign office, which has remained up and running as staffers complete administrative tasks, Bitney sounded like someone who was itching to jump back into the fight.

"It is a campaign office that is just ready to launch at a moment's notice," he said.

Murkowski had initially indicated that she was ready to end her Senate career after her shocking primary defeat to Miller, the Sarah-Palin backed Fairbanks attorney, but the Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Murkowski was meeting with the Alaska Libertarian Senate candidate, David Haase.

If Murkowski were to appear on the ballot in the general election, she would have to strike a deal with the Libertarians to replace Haase's name with hers, a possibility that Haase had initially seemed open to but one that was rejected late last month by a five-member executive committee of the Alaska Libertarian Party.

Reports on Tuesday did not indicate whether the Libertarians may have reconsidered, but Bitney alluded to the possibility that a deal might still be struck.

"They could want everything from a lunch at the Capitol to who knows what," Bitney said. "I think these guys are a little bit star struck, and they're getting more attention than they've probably ever gotten in their whole lives, and it's got to be intriguing and exciting all at once."

Bitney said that he had "no idea" whether Murkowski was meeting with Haase, or other members of the Libertarian Party, on Tuesday.

"She hasn't told me she's meeting with them and I haven't talked to them," Bitney said. "All I go on is the rumors I hear."

Murkowski enjoys nearly universal name recognition in Alaska, a formidable campaign war chest, and could be a competitive candidate in a three-way race against Miller and Democratic nominee Scott McAdams.

Bitney said that Murkowski has received a tremendous amount of encouragement to take on Miller again.

"Somebody put up a Facebook site to tell her to run, and we're getting hundreds of emails telling her to run, phone calls," Bitney said. "There's a lot of people that want a rematch. A lot of people were surprised by the primary and there's still a lot of support out there."

If she were to launch a general election campaign, Murkowski would presumably not be as hesitant to launch negative ads against Miller, as she was in the primary.

Murkowski would not, however, enjoy the support of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which initially backed her but publicly shifted its allegiance to Miller after his primary victory.

Asked whether running as a write-in candidate would be a viable option for Murkowski, should she not be able to work out a deal with the Libertarians, Bitney said, "It could be."

"It's a hard lift to get people to write, but again, whatever she wants to do," he said. "She just has to decide what's best for the state and go at it from that angle. If you don't have a conviction that this is what's best for the state, people can see right through that sort of thing."

Murkowski has thus far declined to endorse Miller over McAdams, and Bitney said that he did not know whether she intended to do so.

Bitney indicated that he had been considering general election campaign strategies for Murkowski.

"Whatever she wants to do and whichever way she wants to go, I have advice for how to go that way," he said. "But that's her decision."

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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