Lisa Murkowski maintained her desperate pursuit of the Libertarian Party nomination to salvage her Senate career, but just as in dating, desperation is not a political aphrodisiac. After a meeting with the Alaskan party’s current nominee David Haase to convince him to withdraw and allow her to represent a party whose main policy preferences she has routinely opposed, the state Libertarian Party chair noted that a switch now would be almost unthinkable:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski met with Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate David Haase on Tuesday to talk about taking his place and running on the Libertarian ticket. But Alaska Libertarian Party Chairman Scott Kolhaas said after the meeting that “I don’t think it’s happening.” …
For Murkowski to run as a Libertarian, Haase would have to step aside and the party would need to reverse its vote barring her from the ticket.
“It would be a serious flip-flop,” party chairman Kohlhaas said. “And I don’t think it’s happening.”
The Libertarians point out that Murkowski’s voting pattern hardly represents the kind of politician they champion. Murkowski has backed the war on drugs, the war in Iraq, and the TARP bailout. Murkowski has since said she regretted that latter vote, but that came mainly in the context of her primary challenge from Joe Miller.
This looks a lot like barking up a very wrong tree. Big-L Libertarians aren’t really known for their pragmatic approach to politics, which is why Big-L Libertarians don’t win many elections. If the party was open to compromise to win seats, they would already have candidates like Joe Miller winning races for them rather than for Republicans. The Libertarian Party leadership adheres to their principles so closely that they could challenge Super Glue for effectiveness.
Even if they were inclined to play the half-a-loaf game to win a seat, Murkowski isn’t really their type — and not just because of her voting record in the Senate, although that would be enough. She also represents dynasty politics, a concept that rubs true Libertarians the wrong way (well, in most cases, the Pauls being an exception). Plus, in this situation, it’s quite obvious that Murkowski cares a lot less for libertarian principles than for the principle of Lisa Murkowski’s career. But the entire courtship plays well for the Libertarians; they haven’t had this kind of political profile in ages, if ever. Why not keep Murkowski’s interest going as long as they can?
Murkowski would be better advised to accept this defeat and plan for 2014. Despite the well-earned cheering over Miller’s win, Murkowski was actually a pretty solid Republican in the Senate and had a voting record most would consider reliably conservative, with a couple of notable exceptions. Instead of undermining that with a desperate attempt to keep her grasp on power, Murkowski could aim for a return to the upper chamber by beating Democrat Mark Begich, who won only because of prosecutorial misconduct against the late Ted Stevens. And Republicans would probably welcome her back by that point.
Update: I changed the title of the post to include the word “probably.” Haase and Kohlhaas haven’t ruled it out, but it doesn’t sound very likely.