Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) plans to announce on Friday whether she will pursue re-election as a write-in candidate, after losing the GOP primary to Tea Party favorite Joe Miller. She said that she has received an "outpouring of support" after her loss, which is making her consider this option. In an interview with the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim on Thursday, however, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) warned about taking this path.
"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."
Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that Murkowski faces a steep uphill climb to win. Begich said that Murkowski shares voters with both Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams, and would therefore take votes away from both. "It's really a Miller-McAdams [race], with her in the sidebar stealing votes from both, with no outcome," he said, adding, "So it's a huge hurdle for her to climb, and you have to have an incredible operation on the ground that doesn't exist right now," he warned. "And you have to do it in short order, and you have to do it in a state that goes from California to the East Coast, from New York to the Gulf in size. I think that's really the struggle that she will have."
Begich believes that without Murkowski, the race will be "neck and neck" between McAdams and Miller. McAdams "has done something that every other Democratic Senate campaign is dying for right now: enthusiasm," Begich stated. "You listen to all the media out there, they're always talking about the enthusiasm gap. There is no question he has generated [it]."
Indeed, a recent Public Policy Polling survey showed that enthusiasm is actually in Democrats' favor in Alaska. Even though the state enthusiastically backed the McCain campaign in 2008 -- in large part because of former governor Sarah Palin being on the ticket -- this time, Democrats have a five-point enthusiasm advantage. Polls still show Miller with a slight lead over McAdams, although he is within striking distance and has significantly closed the gap.
According to Politico, "Only one senator has successfully mounted a write-in campaign in U.S. history. South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, a Democrat at the time, successfully ran against his party's nominee in the 1954 general election. Thurmod switched parties ten years later to become a Republican."