Murkowski Mission Impossible: Write-in Campaign in Alaska

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Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski went through a tough primary this year, only to be ousted in her re-election run for the Republican nomination by tea party backed Joe Miller. Rather than packing her bags in Washington, she listened to her constituents' calls for her to stay in the race - whatever way possible. But at this point, she can't run as an Independent like Joe Lieberman did. The only option remaining to her: a write-in campaign.

WASHINGTON - JUNE 15: U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) speaks during a news conference June 15, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Murkowski spoke on the Oil Spill Compensation Act of 2010 that she proposes will increase the tax companies pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund from 8 cents to 21 cents in order to clean up after oil spills. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After much deliberation and consultation with leaders across the country, Murkowski today announced that she will, in fact, launch a write-in campaign. As a crowd gathered, chanting "run, Lisa, run," she took the stage in Anchorage, proclaiming "today, my friends, my campaign for Alaska's future begins." She described her recent experience as an "outpouring of support", from individuals stopping her in airports, waiters in restaurants, and a flood of e-mail. She said she listened to her heart and decided this was the right thing to do. "Come November 2nd, you now have a choice. If you stand by me, I'm going to stand by you. I'm going to stand by Alaska."

She now attempts to do something only one person ever succeeded at doing in the history of the Senate: Strom Thurmond in 1954. In her own words, "we have communications tools that Strom Thurmond couldn't even dream of. We've got social networking, we've got an ability to communicate with people now that does make it feasible." Introduced by a Democrat who launched a Facebook page calling for a write-in campaign, the rally indicated Murkowski will be undertaking a heavily grassroots-oriented word-of-mouth online campaign, and she'll need a lot of help. Few national Republican campaigns can boast the kind of netroots knowhow that the Obama camp had, and that's what she'll need to even get close to winning.

Moderate and old school Republicans feel that Murkowski is their only chance of keeping someone competent in the Senate. Following that thread, Keith Olbermann roasted the Tea Party Express for their lack of vetting today on MSNBC, with the argument: John McCain didn't vet Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party Express took her word that Joe Miller was "the real deal" when putting hundreds of thousands of dollars behind him.

Murkowski's write-in campaign, grim as its prospects may be, does have a chance at a win. Beyond that, it makes a statement that the old guard -- particularly the few Republican women in the Senate -- won't leave any stone unturned in their attempts to hold onto power for their changing party. Yet many on the right continue to call her a "sore loser," "power hungry" and "self-absorbed."

The voters will decide, but Democrats are already excited about the write-in run because it splits the Republican vote. Furthermore, this shows how fragile the party still is, with two factions pushing for control. It gives the Democrats an opportunity in other states to use this race as an example of why -- in their view -- the Republican party shouldn't be trusted to send qualified leaders to Washington.

Murkowski has six weeks to make history, as her new campaign slogan reads. During that time, she'll be facing a level of vitriol beyond what she felt in the primaries, with the Tea Party Express blasting her on one side and the Democrats berating her on the other. But for once, I agree with Sarah Palin, who said about Murkowski's write-in effort: "she certainly has the right to do so."

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Sarah Granger blogs here and there. She is curating BlogHer's Election 2010 content, featuring women candidates and bloggers.

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