ABC's Jonathan Karl reports: A high-level GOP source tells me that party leaders have essentially given up on Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller and are now banking on a victory by write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski as the best bet for Republicans to keep the Alaska Senate seat.
Murkowski defied party leaders by running a write-in campaign after she lost the Republican primary last month. But with Miller's campaign faltering, the source tells me that Republican leaders are now worried that Democrat Scott McAdams has a shot of winning and that Murkowski may be the only way to stop him.
It's a remarkable turnaround for Murkowski. She was punished by party leaders last month — unceremoniously stripped of her post in the Senate leadership — when she refused to bow out of the Senate race and endorse Miller. But she has consistently said she is still a Republican and will caucus with the Republican party if she wins.
The nightmare scenario for Republicans is that McAdams comes in second on Election Day, trailing "write-in candidate." Those write-in votes won't be counted unless there are more write-in votes than there are votes for any candidate on the ballot. Once the write-in votes are counted, however, some of them will inevitably be disqualified (illegible writing, wrong name, etc.). And a small number will be for candidates other than Murkowski. If enough are tossed out, second place McAdams would be the winner.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has been forced to spend precious resources in Alaska. But take a look at the latest ad running in Alaska: It spends 25 seconds attacking Democrat McAdams and less than five seconds mentioning Joe Miller.
If the NRSC really wanted to help Miller, it would be attacking Murkowski. Indeed, an anti-McAdams ad may be the last thing Miller needs right now. At this point, what he really needs is for McAdams to siphon anti-Miller votes away from Murkowski.