Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Murkowski's Dangerous Dance

According to the AP, Lisa Murkowski isn't so certain after all about stepping aside after her defeat in the Republican primary:

"But what I'm looking at is my state and the future of my state for my kids. So, I have not made that determination that I'm going to give up. I'm not a quitter, never have been. And I'm still in this game," Murkowski said.

She met briefly Tuesday with the Libertarian candidate David Haase after friends of hers - without her direction, she said - approached his party, asking if the Libertarians would consider a Murkowski candidacy. She said she was prepared to meet with those friends Tuesday but was told that Haase and party Chairman Scott Kohlhaas also were invited. She said she was not "prepared nor interested" in talking with the Libertarian board, which she said Kohlhaas represents. However, she indicated she'd be willing to listen to what Haase had to say "but that's the extent of my interest at this point in time. So I did."

Robert Stacy McCain has more on some of the background to the struggle. Surprise surprise---anti-Palin people are deeply connected to the project of running Murkowski as a Libertarian.

Polls suggest that Murkowski could win in a three-way race against Republican Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams, but it looks like it would be a very close one.

One understands the appeal of running as a Libertarian for Murkowski: she seems to stand a shot of winning as one, and victory would allow her to continue to hold power in the Senate.

However, there are also significant risks for Murkowski if she does run as a Libertarian. Perhaps the foremost of those is that, if she runs as a Libertarian and loses, it would be hard for her to come back as a Republican. A loss as a Libertarian candidate could end her political career.

At 53, Murkowski is, by politician standards, a relatively young woman, with potentially plenty of a career ahead of her. She may decide that it is in her best interest to bow out today in hopes of running for office another day. There will be another Alaska Senate race in 2014, in which incumbent Democrat Mark Begich would face reelection. As a former senator, Murkowski might have dibs on challenging the Democrat. Certainly, if she were backed by a hypothetical incumbent Republican Senator Joe Miller, she could probably win a primary easily.

Four years is a long time in politics (just ask Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama), but it isn't that long. The seeds of a later political victory could potentially be sown by a gracious defeat here.

Murkowski no doubt knows this. Part of her dance about running as a Libertarian may be an attempt to lock down the private support of establishment Alaska Republicans for a later race.

Murkowski's playing a high-stakes game here, one that could have implications for her own career and for her country.

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