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Ted Stevens Featured in New Murkowski Ad

Ted Stevens Featured in New Murkowski Ad

By Scott Conroy - October 15, 2010


Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski launched a new TV ad on Friday highlighting the endorsement she received from iconic Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who died in a plane crash in August.

Just days before Stevens' death, he cut the TV spot for Murkowski, speaking directly to camera in an advertisement intended to air ahead of her GOP primary battle against Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller. At the time when Stevens shot the ad, Murkowski appeared likely to cruise to an easy victory in the primary and general election.

A Murkowski campaign official told RealClearPolitics that Stevens had watched and approved the ad the night before his plane crash, and the spot was scheduled to air the next day.

After Stevens' death, Murkowski chose not to run the ad out of respect for the late senator, and she froze campaign operations for a week. Murkowski went on to lose the primary to the tea party-backed Miller.

Now running as a write-in candidate and locked in a close three-way battle against Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams to retain her senate seat, Murkowski is airing the footage of Stevens' endorsement, while walking a delicate line to avoid perceptions that her campaign is exploiting the late senator.

The recut 60-second Murkowski ad opens with Stevens' daughter, Sue Covich, explaining that Stevens had endorsed his former Senate colleague before his death, as images of Murkowski and Stevens appear on screen, including a 1975 black and white photo of the pair that was taken when Murkowski was an intern in Stevens' office.

"Now my family and I want you to hear for yourself how strongly he felt about the need to reelect Lisa," Covich says as the screen fades to black 35 seconds into the ad.

Stevens then appears on camera in footage that is dated July 30, 2010. "I trust Lisa and her commitment to keep fighting for us," Stevens says in words that Murkowski cited when she launched her write-in bid. "She's working for Alaska every single day. We need Lisa and the seniority she's earned now more than ever."

The ad then fades to black again before Murkowski appears standing beside Covich. "I'm Lisa Murkowski and I approved this message," Murkowski says. "And I thank Sue and the Stevens family for the years that they shared their father with Alaska and for their continuing support today."

The cooperation of the late senator's daughter in the ad could go a long way to alleviate concerns over the precarious nature of reminding voters of Stevens' endorsement of Murkowski in a tasteful way.

A Murkowski campaign official said that Covich, Stevens' oldest daughter, approached the Murkowski campaign after her father's burial and said that she wanted to help. The Murkowski campaign knew that they would have to extend the advertisement to a full 60 seconds, since every word that Covich said in setting up her father's appearance would be key.

Murkowski and her campaign staff ran the ad by Stevens' family and close friends, and according to the Murkowski campaign, they did not receive any negative feedback.

Murkowski's write-in bid has been an uphill climb since she launched it last month, but recent surveys have shown that she is now running neck and neck with Miller.

Still, accurately polling a write-in candidate-even one with the near universal name recognition in Alaska that Murkowski enjoys-is a nearly impossible endeavor, and Murkowski's challenges remain formidable.

In Alaska, Stevens' legend is unparalleled, having been integral to the fight for statehood in the 1950s and representing Alaska as a senator for 40 years.

The Murkowski campaign intends to launch new advertisements in the coming days featuring the senator's closing argument to voters, but the Stevens spot is clearly the most integral component of her final campaign push.

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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