Murkowski's Third-Party Options Limited and Not Promising

Shushannah Walshe has a piece at the Daily Beast floating the possibility that, if Lisa Murkowski does indeed lose to Joe Miller, she could run as a third-party candidate. Walshe refers to an unnamed source within the Murkowski campaign who says that they plan to "see whether the option is there or not, but it's a decision she (Murkowski) has to make. There is an option I know of."

Walshe suggests two possibilities: running as a write-in candidate, which would be extremely difficult, expensive, and unlikely; or running on the Alaska Independence Party's ticket. Walshe seems to think Murkowski's campaign is considering the latter, despite the trouble she might have overcoming the party's secessionist bent.

But Gail Fenumiai, director of Alaska's Department of Elections, told me in an email that Murkowski would not be able to run on the AIP's ticket. "There were no US Senate Alaskan Independence Party candidates on the Primary Election," Fenumiai wrote, "so there is no option for them to place someone on the ballot."

Since Murkowski missed the June filing deadline for independent candidates, her main other third-party option,  other than running as a write-in, seems to be with the state's Libertarian Party. Fenumiai said that the party could replace its current candidate with Murkowski if it so chooses.

Scot Kohlhaas, chairman of the Alaska Libertarian Party, could not comment on whether they'd be open to putting her on their ballot. Their candidate, David Haase, would have to withdraw voluntarily, and the party would have to make the change by a date in September. "I can say this," Kohlhaas said. "She is more pro-choice, and we like that. She voted for amnesty, we like that. There are things about Lisa that we like."

But just how likely is Murkowski to even explore the option? William Galston, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institute, thinks she would be reluctant to split the Republican vote. "I don't think there's evidence that she's been driven away from her home party the way Charlie Crist was," Galston said. "Pursuing this hypothetically, if you split the 55 or 60 percent of the vote that the Republican nominee would probably get this year, and you generate a plurality Democratic winner for the Senate seat -- what are you doing?"

Alfredo Rodriguez, a vice president of conservative consulting firm Marsh Copsey + Associates, thinks Murkowski is unlikely to run as a third-party candidate because of the risk of alienating her base. "I think in Murkowski's case, if she does in fact lose, then I think she's going to damage herself with Republicans," Rodriguez said. "You know, Alaska's a very Republican state, and so while certainly the new dynamic and a possible third candidacy by Lisa Murkowski could change the race, I think Joe Miller will prevail."

Joe Lieberman, of course, was not afraid to split the Democratic vote. But he had arguably more crossover appeal than Murkowski, who might do better to wait out a term and run again in 2016.

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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