“I don’t understand it,” said John Bitney, who was a top adviser to Ms. Palin during her run in 2006 and worked as campaign manager for Ms. Murkowski this year. “The back-and-forths have been all out in the open. I don’t know what drives them.”…

“I wanted to avoid a race between Sarah and Lisa,” he said, referring to the Republican primary race that ended a week after the voting as the count dragged on. “It was going to raise issues that I didn’t want to have to deal with. I had hoped this would not be a story.”…

They represent very different versions of Alaska. Ms. Palin grew up in Wasilla, where development dead-ends and some of the most remote places in America begin. Her father was a schoolteacher, but she earned only a bachelor’s degree after hopscotching from college to college.

Ms. Murkowski grew up in Fairbanks, graduated from Georgetown University and later earned a law degree. In a frontier state, her family counted as the establishment. She was a young woman when her father was elected to the Senate in 1980.