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Murkowski Camp Pulls Write-In Ad That Misspelled Her Name

Murkowski Camp Pulls Write-In Ad That Misspelled Her Name

By Scott Conroy - September 21, 2010


When Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski announced on Friday that she would launch a write-in campaign to hold onto her seat after losing the Republican primary, she dismissed the idea that the logistical hurdles of mounting a successful write-in campaign would be as difficult as pundits have made them out to be.

"You've got to learn how to spell my name, but that's not as tough as it sounds, and over the next 45 days we'll be teaching you how to spell it," Murkowski said, drawing a smattering of laughter from the crowd of supporters in Anchorage.

But as she launched her first advertisement on Monday designed to educate voters on the proper procedure for writing in her name on the ballot, Murkowski discovered firsthand that correctly spelling her name might, in fact, be tougher than it sounds.

The online ad that was posted on YouTube on Monday was originally titled, "Vote Lisa M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I Public Service Announcement," but the URL that flashed on the bottom of the screen at the end of the ad directed viewers to visit LisaMurkwski.com.

As of Monday night, that web site, which misspells Murkowski's name, featured a message disparaging Murkowski and promoting the candidacy of Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller, who defeated Murkowski in the Republican primary.

Once it realized the mistake, the Murkowski campaign pulled the ad, corrected the error, and reposted it under a different URL.

Before the spelling error began making the rounds on the blogosphere on Monday night, Murkowski spokesperson Steve Wackowski told RealClearPolitics that the ad was the work of volunteers, rather than paid professionals.

After realizing the mistake, Wackowski was quick to take the fall for the rest of the campaign team, noting that he approved the ad to go up on the web as he laughed off the error.

"Ironically enough, her name does not have to be spelled correctly," Wackowski said, referring to a comment by the director of Alaska's Division of Elections that she would only need to determine a voter's intent. "Honest mistake on our part, and we all had a good laugh about it."

But the gaffe marked an inauspicious start for the incumbent senator's revamped campaign team as it gears up to launch a larger television advertising blitz to promote the write-in process.

Murkowski's state director, Kevin Sweeney, took over as campaign manager on Sunday as part of a staff shakeup going into the general election. Sweeney replaced John Bitney, who managed the Murkowski campaign during the primary race and was moved to a new role overseeing a regional campaign office.

The corrected online ad, titled, "Fill It In, Write It In! Murkowski's Public Service Announcement," is shot in black-and-white and employs 1950s-style imagery that shows school children learning how to vote for Murkowski on November 2.

"Good morning, boys and girls," a man playing the role of a teacher says in the advertisement. "Today we are going to learn how to vote for Lisa Murkowski."

In the ad, the teacher explains that the process is "as easy as two steps," in which voters need to fill in the bubble next to the "write in candidate" line and then write in Murkowski's name.

The Murkowski campaign is encouraging voters to first fill in the bubble, since there is concern that some voters might assume incorrectly that it is enough to only write in Murkowski's name on the ballot.

The ad reminds voters that after they "fill it in" and "write it in," they can then choose to "send it in," if they are voting using an early absentee ballot.

The Murkowski campaign is thought to have about $1 million on hand, and Alaska's relatively inexpensive television and radio markets means that the incumbent senator's advertising reach can be extensive, particularly since she continues to actively raise money for her write-in bid.

No statewide candidate has ever won a write-in campaign in Alaska, and no write-in candidate has been elected to the U.S. Senate since South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond pulled off the feat in 1954.

Murkowski is hoping that her nearly universal name recognition in Alaska will lessen the hurdle she faces in mounting a successful write-in bid.

Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai's has said that she would only need to determine a voter's intent in order to count a write-in vote, but the state's attorney general is currently reviewing the issue.

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

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