ABC: GOP pinning hopes in AK on … Murkowski; NRSC denies

posted at 1:00 pm on October 31, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Has the GOP given up on Joe Miller?  ABC’s Jonathan Karl says that “a high-level GOP source” tells him that the party has lost hope that Miller can pull out a victory on Election Day in Alaska.  Instead, they’re now quietly rooting for a write-in victory by Murkowski to save the Republican Senate seat.  But even that’s problematic:

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. …

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.

That last piece of analysis seems backward to me.  The threat is to the Republican seat, and having McAdams come in second for it, as Karl notes first.  The GOP needs McAdams to come in third, and having either Miller or “write in” come in second.  That assures a Republican hold.  If McAdams comes in third, then either Miller wins outright, Miller wins after the handcount of write-in ballots, or Murkowski wins.  Why spend money attacking Murkowski in that scenario?

That makes the whole “GOP cuts Miller loose” theory seem suspect.  They don’t need to choose either path to victory at the moment, only ensure that McAdams comes in third.  Perhaps individuals at the top of the party may have begun gaming out a Murkowski win in terms of getting her back in the fold, but at this point, nothing indicates that the party will shift its endorsement or even its public position.  Leaking this may well be a way to signal “no hard feelings” to the Murkowski camp, just to make sure that they will keep her in the Republican caucus if she manages to win a write-in victory for the Senate, which hasn’t happened in more than 50 years.

Update: The NRSC completely denies the story, and reiterates its full support for Miller in a statement sent to Hot Air and others:

“While I’m sure ABC News enjoyed leading Politico’s Playbook this morning, it might have been more useful if they had actually taken a moment to contact the NRSC before running this inaccurate story. Joe Miller not only has the full support of the NRSC, but he’s actually featured prominently in our TV ad which is running still today statewide in Alaska.” — Rob Jesmer, NRSC Executive Director


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