Sen. Lisa Murkowski is reported to be considering running a write-in campaign in Alaska, and some sources have said she could announce such a run in the next few days. Her prospects of convincing a plurality of Alaskan voters to write her name at the bottom of their ballots seem unrealistic, and in reality, very few national candidates have won office this way -- only two senators and five congresspeople, and no one since 1982, according to Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News.
Murkowski, however, would have a few advantages. She is extremely well-known in a state with relatively few people, so she could focus more of her money on explaining how voters could choose her and less on letting them know who she is. She also has a fair amount to spend, with over $1 million left in the bank after she lost the Republican primary to Joe Miller. Alaska's election protocol would smooth her efforts: it would allow voters to misspell her name as long as their intent is clear, and it provides a uniform voting experience that Murkowski could walk voters through.
The first candidate to win national office via a write-in campaign was Peter Francis Tague, a Massachusetts member of the House whose situation was not too dissimilar from Murkowski's. After Tague lost his Democratic primary by 50 votes in 1918, he ran as a write-in in the general election, which he lost by a narrow margin. He contested it, however, and ended up winning the seat.