Will Murkowski run as an independent? Update: Libertarian Party the only option?

That was the second thought I had this morning when I heard about Miller’s likely upset (the first, of course, was “Dude?”), and no doubt it was the first thought that Murkowski herself had. People often compare Crist’s indie run this year to Lieberman’s bid four years ago after losing the primary to Ned Lamont, but there’s a big difference between those two. Florida is a purple state with two legit party nominees, so Crist is facing a crapshoot in a true three-way race. Connecticut was a blue state where the GOP nominee was a non-factor, so Lieberman knew he could go indie and expect Republicans to vote strategically for him as the more conservative of the two viable options.

Murkowski’s situation is much closer to Lieberman’s than Crist’s is. The Democratic Senate nominee in red-state Alaska is such a non-entity that the DNC’s spokesman couldn’t even name him this morning when asked. If she ran as an independent, she’d peel off a good chunk of Republicans from Miller (figure a third or slightly more) and, with a little centrist pandering over the next month or two, could probably convince a huge swath of Dems to support her in the interest of defeating Miller. All she has to do is whisper the magic word — Palin — and she’ll have Sarah-hating Alaska lefties maxing out on donations to her. Don’t forget either that Murkowski decided not to attack Miller until the very end of the race, figuring that tearing him down with ads would backfire by raising his name recognition. She won’t make that mistake again in the general.

Just one question: Is she still eligible to run as an indie? Hmmmm:

The ongoing battle for who won the Republican primary in the Alaska Senate race will come down to the absentee ballots, but in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, a source within the Murkowski campaign says they know of one possible legal option to pursue a third party run. If Murkowski is not victorious when the absentee ballots are counted and decides to wage an independent party bid, they might consider using this option, which the source wouldn’t describe, but did confirm they were seriously looking at…

Although it’s not exactly clear what the options the Murkowski camp are now exploring, one possibility is running a write-in campaign, which would be very difficult and unlikely option. According to the Elections Coordinator in the Alaska Department of Elections, Murkowski has until October 28th to file as a write-in, in which case write-in votes for her would be counted if the aggregate total of all write-ins is greater than ballots cast or within the range that would require a recount. In the coordinator’s 14 years, this has never happened in a state race.

The other possibility: the Alaska Independence Party. Former Governor Wally Hickel lost the Republican primary in 1990, but won in the general by being on the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) ticket. A third party run could work for Murkowski as the Democrat’s candidate is largely unknown Sitka mayor Scott McAdams, but she would have to overcome the main reason the AIP exists in the Last Frontier: they are a secessionist party calling for Alaska to leave the United States. Obviously, Murkowski is not a secessionist, which Alaskans know, and an aggressive PR campaign promoting her independence rather than the AIP may be her only route back to Washington this fall.

I poked around the Alaska secretary of state’s webpage this morning and it looks like Murkowski’s too late to run as an indie. Alaska is one of the 46 states with a “sore-loser law” requiring independents to register for the ballot by the date of the party primaries (Connecticut is one of the four without one), so the window on that is closed. A write-in campaign is possible — Bob Bennett considered it after losing in the Utah Republican caucus — but how likely is it that she’ll convince 75,000 or so supporters, many of whom will necessarily be Democrats, to take the time to write her in instead of flipping the switch for a party nominee? As for the AIP, I won’t even pretend to know how that might work. Looks like they don’t yet have a nominee for Senate this year, so presumably Murkowski would make some sort of deal with them in which they nominate her and she … pushes for Alaskan independence? Man, blogging these midterms is going to be fun.

These are her only options at this point as far as I know, because according to Larry Sabato, the absentee ballots that are being counted won’t be enough for her to catch Miller. She’s going to lose the primary. No wonder she’s sounding so grouchy about Palin:

“The tone was directed against me rather than reasons why you should support Joe,” Murkowski told me in an interview. “But she did put a little dig in there about my family, and you can’t help but notice when she says that she encouraged people to basically pony up 1,000 bucks to raise the 30,000 dollars, they want Miller to gain and that would be a 1,000 dollars for the 30 years the Murkowski family…locked up Alaska. All of a sudden, it was like, wait a minute, if you are taking me on because you don’t think I’m conservative enough that’s one thing, but are you now suggesting that Frank Murkowski was not conservative enough and why are you looping him on this? All of a sudden it became a little more personal.”

Compare and contrast that with Joe Miller’s line of the day: “Alaskans are prepared to enter a new era of politics — an era of self-dependency.” Exit question: Is it time to start worrying about what an angry Lisa Murkowski might do during the lame-duck session in December? Hmmmm.

Update: Via John McCormack, the Anchorage Daily News says it’s libertarian or bust.

Alaska Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai told me it’s too late for Murkowski to file to have her name appear on the ballot as an independent, so that would need to be a write-in effort. There is a Libertarian candidate in the race, Frederick Haase, who could choose to step down. The Libertarian Party could then select a replacement for him on the ballot.

There is no other third party candidate in the U.S. Senate race, so Libertarian would be the only option for Murkowski to join a new party for a run.

So because the AIP never nominated anyone, I guess, they’re out of luck in the Murkowski sweepstakes. Which actually makes things easier for her: A deal with the AIP would be a tough sell nationally, but the Libertarian brand is perfectly kosher. I wonder what she’d have to promise them to get them to drop their guy.