Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, whose loss in her state's Republican primary to the Tea Party-backed Joe Miller rattled the political world, will run a general election campaign as a Republican write-in candidate, she declared today.
As supporters at a late-afternoon rally in Anchorage, Alaska, chanted, "Run, Lisa, Run," Murkowski told them, "I get the message. I hear it loud and clear, and I announce today that I will be a write-in candidate in November for the United States Senate seat that I now hold."
The incumbent senator's run sets the stage for a three-way race between her, Miller, and the Democratic candidate, Scott McAdams, mayor of Sitka, Alaska.
Unlike Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who successfully switched from a Democrat to Independent, Murkowski will not be running as an independent and is not changing her party. Also, her name won't actually be on the ballot. Voters would have to write it in.
Political observers have called Murkowski's chances slim: No statewide candidate taking the write-in route ever has been successful in Alaska.
Murkowski acknowledged the skeptics, but insisted, "We can do it."
"Alaskans can't fill in an oval and spell M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I?" she asked.
As she responded to critics of her write-in chances, she also took a not-so-veiled swipe at a political rival, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who left office before her term was up.
"They tell me that this can't be done, that this is a futile effort," she said. "Well, maybe this is one time that they have met one Republican woman who won't quit on Alaska."
Murkowski conceded to newcomer Miller, who had Palin's backing, on Sept. 1 after a tough primary battle in which she outspent him by more than $2.5 million.
Before her announcement Friday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee discouraged Murkowski from following the write-in path, saying it was "united behind Joe Miller's nomination."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., underscored that sentiment after Murkowski declared her write-in candidacy.
"Senate Republicans informed Lisa Murkowski that we will respect the will of the voters in Alaska and support the Republican nominee, Joe Miller," he said in a statement. "I informed her that by choosing to run a campaign against the Republican nominee, she no longer has my support for serving in any leadership roles, and I have accepted her letter of resignation from Senate leadership. Lisa has served her state and our party with distinction, but Republicans acknowledge the decision Alaskans made and join them in support of the Republican nominee, Joe Miller -- the next senator for Alaska."
As Murkowski's intentions became evident, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee blasted her decision as "the latest example of the Republican Party cannibalizing itself.
"From the tip of Florida, to the beaches in Delaware, all the way to the islands off Alaska, the Republican Party heads into November with deep and serious divisions," DSCC press secretary Deirdre Murphy said in a prepared statement. "Alaska voters now have three options in November: a Washington insider who supports the failed economic policies of the past, an extremist who wants to end Social Security and Medicare, and a small-town mayor who would put Alaskan families first."