Alaska’s Libertarians freeze the state’s U.S. Senate race.
With the GOP primary between Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Joe Miller headed into overtime, Alaska’s Libertarian Party suddenly found their own Senate prospects switching from irrelevant to relevant. Between D.C. rumors of Murkowski courting the LP for ballot access and the willingness of the party’s own Senate nominee to step aside should Alaska’s senior senator come up short in the absentee race, Libertarians found themselves needing to make a familar choice between principle and politics.
By that definition, the outcome should never have been in doubt:
On Sunday morning, over coffee and donuts, the ExComm voted unanimously, 5 to 0 to deny the Senator the ballot line. There was no malice intended. ALP Chair Kohlhaas has repeatedly stated that she is a nice lady, and the ALP was flattered by the offer.
While the decision guarantees Lisa Murkowski won’t become a political footnote as the first Libertarian U.S. Senator, it also likely guarantees that short of a near landslide of Murkowski absentee ballots, Joe Miller will be the GOP’s nominee. Despite the race closing to just over 1,600 votes and talk of tens of thousands of absentee ballots left to be counted, only 5,801 absentee ballots were sent to Republican voters. Thus Murkowski needs to win those remaining ballots with totals around 60% – a possible but not particularly probable outcome.
Should she lose any recount attempt, Murkowski’s options are few other than simply conceding. No other party can give her ballot access (other than the Democrats), meaning Murkowski’s last hope to return to Washington lies in a longshot write-in candidacy. Although polling showed Murkowski competitive in a 3-way race, the hurdles of a successful write-in campaign are taller than Yao Ming on stilts. Strom Thurmond managed to win a U.S. Senate race as a write-in candidate in 1954, and a handful of others have won U.S. House general or primary elections as write-ins. But in almost all cases, the victory came because the opposition was either completely unknown and unmotivated to run, or because there simply wasn’t any opposition at all. Neither could be said to be true in Alaska.
Murkowski’s likely forthcoming disappearance from the race makes Alaska’s senate race – at least for the moment – look mildly competitive. In a two-way battle, Miller leads Democrat Scott McAdams only 47% to 39%, perhaps partially explaining why Miller’s ill-tempered tweet comparing Murkowski’s possible party switch to prostitution has garnered as much lower 48 media exposure as it has. Or maybe because it had the media wondering if the analogy made the Libertarians the pimp or the john.
Democrats are obviously looking for GOP-held targets to help mitigate their likely November losses. But despite the early polling, Alaska isn’t fertile ground for the DNC. McAdams had raised only $9,000 as of the last reporting deadline, with a grand total of $4,500 on hand. How much money would Democrats really want to pour into a state that requires more campaign infrastructure than TV ads in order to compete?
Between McAdams’ nearly nonexistent campaign and Tea Party activists throwing money at Miller, it seems doubtful at the moment that Republicans will be required to spend much capital – monetary or otherwise – to ensure the seat remains safely in the ‘R’ column next January.