Lisa Murkowski supporters are urging people to come out tonight for what’s being called a “campaign kick off,” although her campaign manager isn’t ready to say that she’s decided to run.
Bonnie Jack, who was a Murkowski campaign elections observer for the count of absentee votes, sent out an email this morning. “Join us at the Kick-off of Senator Lisa's campaign -- with a theme of "write in her name in and fill in the oval."...
Jack confirmed to me that she sent the email, and indicated that obviously the conclusion to be drawn from it is that Murkowski is running
Wow. This is an unexpected development, and I'm sure that Nate Silver, SSP and everyone else is scrambling to recalibrate their predictions for the Alaska Senate race again after Joe "Craziest Catch" Miller's teabagging of Murkowski in the primary.
Now, whether this development will help or harm Democrat Scott McAdams, I have no idea. Conventional wisdom would have it that it should split the GOP vote into Crazy Joe voters and Not Horribly Crazy Lisa voters, but I know that the initial polling after the primary suggested that this isn't necessarily the case:
In a three way contest with Murkowski running as the Libertarian candidate Miller leads but with only 38% to 34% for Murkowski and 22% for McAdams. Democrats have been hopeful that Murkowski will run on the assumption she would split the Republican vote but her supporters actually go 47-23 for McAdams in a two way contest with Miller.
HOWEVER, there's an important caveat--notice the vital point in the paragraph above: Murkowski running as the Libertarian candidate. That isn't how it's gonna play out. A write-in campaign is a VERY different animal.
Of course, the write-in campaign in which I was involved had several important differences: It was for a House campaign, not Senate; it was in a Primary, not the general; it was for a complete unknown, not an incumbent; and it was for a guy with virtually no money or support, not an establishment professional with connections and cash.
Then again, my guy ended up on the ballot in the end anyway, so make of that what you will...
Still, let's take a look at the prospects for Murkowski in this particular write-in race. As her current Democratic counterpart, Mark Begich put it yesterday:
"Being a write-in is very tough in Alaska," Begich said. "These people who say you just put her name down, Lisa -- the lieutenant governor who runs elections, who's a Republican, said no no no. Last name. You can misspell it just a little bit, but you can't butcher it, and you have to put the name, you have to fill in the dot, you have to do all kinds of things."
Begich pointed to stories about how Murkowski voters are planning to wear little rubber bracelets that read, "Lisa M. Write in and Fill in." Some supporters are pushing her campaign to distribute 50,000 of them before the election. Begich said that such adornments may be against the law. "Can't do it; it's illegal," he said. "It's campaigning on the premise. The Miller people will have poll watchers watching all that stuff. You can't use stickers; that's outlawed in our state."
Or, to put it more succinctly, as AKMuckraker did: "Merkowsky... Mercowski... Murcowsky... Muhrcouskie.... Merkhowskey... Nuff said."
Between my own recent experience and this AK-Sen development, I decided to look up some info on write-ins at the U.S. Federal level:
--Only one Senator in history has ever won a write-in campaign: Strom Thurmond, in 1954.
--In the House, there have been 9 notable cases of write-in campaign attempts, including the infamous Shelley Sekula-Gibbs in Tom DeLay's seat:
Shelley Sekula-Gibbs failed as a write-in candidate in the November 7, 2006 election to represent the 22nd Texas congressional district in the 110th Congress (for the full term commencing January 3, 2007). The seat had been vacant since June 9, 2006, due to the resignation of the then representative Tom DeLay. Therefore, on the same ballot, there were two races: one for the 110th Congress, as well as a race for the unexpired portion of the term during the 109th Congress (until January 3, 2007). Sekula-Gibbs won the race for the unexpired portion of the term during the 109th Congress as a candidate listed on the ballot. She could not be listed on the ballot for the full term because Texas law did not allow a replacement candidate to be listed on the ballot after the winner of the primary (Tom DeLay) has resigned.
Anyway, I'll leave the prognosticating about how this will impact the race to the experts; for my part, I'll just close by posting links for both Scott McAdams and my own pet project, Lance Enderle here in MI-08, who lost his own write-in primary campaign but ended up the Democratic nominee anyway!
Update: As a coincidental bonus, both Scott McAdams and Lance Enderle just happened to be the back-to-back guests on the Randi Rhodes Show a couple of weeks ago. Nicole Sandler was filling in as guest host.
(NOTE: Click link for interviews; I've removed the embed due to some weird reloading issues it was causing).
(McAdams' segment starts around 14 minutes in and runs about 15 minutes; Enderle's starts around 31 minutes in and lasts 6 minutes)
Update x2: Thanks to AnnetteK in the comments for the latest updates:
September 17, 2010 3:11 P.M. By Rich Lowry
A well-placed source in the senate is telling us that Murkowski is running, announcement at 9pm.
If she actually goes through with this, the Republican leadership should immediately strip her of her seniority and take her off the appropriations committee.
Murkowski's campaign leaders have confirmed that Murkowski is flying back to Anchorage to make an announcement at 5 p.m. local time but would not confirm whether she plans to take on the Republican Party establishment with a write-in campaign — an endeavor political analysts have said would be extremely difficult.
But Jack said supporters have heard that the senator has made a decision and are preparing the ground...
Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer said Murkowski should instead be endorsing the nominee her party elected in August.
"If she is unwilling to be a good team member, then she should know that we at the Tea Party Express are prepared to work twice as hard to defeat her in November as we did last month in the primary," Kremer said in a statement. "Her record of tax-spend-bailout reflects the failed politics of the past. Like many other career politicians she seems to think this seat is some sort of entitlement. not, and Alaska voters sent a message: Thanks, but no thanks, Lisa."
And imagine that, the chair of the Tea Party stated point-blank that being "a good team player" means, by definition, supporting the Republican candidate.