Trump said over the weekend that Murkowski will “never recover” with Alaska voters, a suggestion she dismissed.
“I know Alaska’s political terrain better than he does,” Murkowski told reporters after meeting with McConnell in his leadership suite in the Capitol.
“He did want me to know he had shared his strong words, supportive words on my behalf, which I greatly appreciate,” Murkowski said of McConnell…
“We had just a good conversation,” she said of the session with McConnell, which only lasted a few minutes. “He did want to make sure that I knew that he had said some complimentary words about me and my support back home. I think he knows that the Alaska constituency might be a little bit different than in other states.”
Does Murkowski know Alaska politics better than Trump does? Short answer: Yes, obviously. Her family’s a political institution there. Imagine how well you’d need to know local politics to pull off a successful write-in campaign in any race, let alone a statewide race for a U.S. Senate race. Murkowski can semi-credibly claim that no one in American politics knows what Alaska’s general electorate will and won’t put up with as well as she does.
The slightly longer answer: Trump and MAGA Nation will respond that he won Alaska going away in 2016, by a hefty 15 points. That denotes some knowledge, doesn’t it? Eh, not really. It’s not a battleground. It’s safely red perennially, one of the many states that are in the Republican or Democratic column when the general election begins and never wavers, such that no one pays any attention to it. You win Alaska comfortably if you’re the Republican nominee simply by having your name on the ballot. In fact, a case could be made that Trump underperformed Romney in Alaska. He won by a slightly larger margin than Romney did, but Romney was up against an incumbent president who was fairly well-liked. Trump was up against … this. He made his free throws by winning there but let’s not overdo it.
What Trump can plausibly claim is that he knows what Alaska Republicans want better than Murkowski does. She lost the 2010 primary, after all; if she could be blindsided by tea-party fever eight years ago, presumably she could be overwhelmed by a MAGA insurgency to punish her for the Kavanaugh note in 2022. (One key difference is that she may have underestimated the strength of the former, believing it wouldn’t reach her state, but is already on guard for the latter.) This is why I say a Trump/Murkowski war would be so self-defeating, though. If Murkowski feels confident about her ability to win a general election but insecure about her ability to win a Republican primary, then there’s an obvious move she might make before 2022. That in turn explains why Mitch McConnell is being so forgiving of her Kavanaugh heresy, both privately per the excerpt above and publicly per the clip below. The difference between Trump and McConnell, simply put, is that McConnell is constantly thinking of how to get to 50. And if Murkowski ends up alienated by POTUS or comes to the conclusion that Trump has poisoned the state party against her so completely that winning a primary is hopeless, she’ll have no choice but to go indie and/or make a deal with Schumer to caucus with the Democrats. If McConnell hasn’t already phoned Trump to ask him to cool it with Murkowski to avert that disaster, he will soon.
Watch that clip, but first watch Murkowski talking about finding serenity after the big vote by watching the new Mr. Rogers movie or something.
Senator @LisaMurkowski discusses #Kavanaugh vote and that she watched @mrrogersmovie later that day. "It's okay to be good with one another. It's okay to accept people for who they are. It's okay to just find the good." pic.twitter.com/doYFisHeLN
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 10, 2018