ABC News claims that Republican party leaders have given up on Joe Miller in Alaska and are now banking on Lisa Murkowski as the best bet for Republicans to keep the Alaska Senate seat. As evidence, it cites a “high level” Republican source and the fact that the National Republican Senatorial Committee in its latest ad spent 25 seconds attacking Democrat Scott McAdams and less than five seconds mentioning Joe Miller.
The NRSC denies ABC’s story, and I believe the denial. First, there’s no reason why anyone should give up on Miller’s campaign. Although he’s behind in the polls, I don’t think it’s possible to conclude from these polls that he has no chance, or even that he is less than even money to win. The polls do not, and cannot, adequately take into account the obstacle that Murkowski’s non-presence on the ballot poses to her campaign.
Second, as Ed Morrissey points out, there is good reason for the NRSC to focus its fire on McAdams – he represents the only way the Republicans can lose the seat. The Republicans can hold the seat with either Murkowski or Miller.
It’s also important that Miller finish ahead of McAdams. If McAdams were to finish second behind “write-in candidate,” the write-in votes would then have to be counted and some of Murkowski’s votes would probably be disqualified for technical reasons. Thus McAdams could squeak out a victory. But if Miller is ahead of McAdams, only Murkowski or Miller can win.
Under these circumstances, it makes sense for the NRSC to try to drive down McAdams’ vote and, in particular, to discourage any voters who have become disaffected with Miller from voting for McAdams. Quite simply, that is the optimal strategy for keeping the seat in Republican hands.
It’s possible that there are influential Republicans in Washington who are rooting for Murkowski, either because they like her or because they think Miller may be difficult to work with. But there’s no reason to believe that the focus on attacking McAdams stems either from any belief that Miller can’t win or any preference that he not do so.
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