And Lisa thanked the DEMOCRATS for their help. Is she a frikkin RINO or what?
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, all but certified as the first successful write-in candidate for Senate in more than half a century, is poised to claim another distinction:
She’s the only national politician to fight Sarah Palin on her home turf and win.
Palin-endorsed Republican Joe Miller continues to challenge the outcome of the election in court, but Murkowski’s lead of more than 10,000 votes is expected to hold.
That means that in a year when numerous Republicans were cast aside by an angry party base, Murkowski will be the lone lawmaker who lost to a tea party- and Palin-backed challenger in a primary — but is returning to Washington anyway.
And like any good action-movie character mistakenly left for dead, Murkowski’s coming back with a vengeance, picking fights with Palin and the party’s activist wing.
She tore into Palin in an interview with CBS News last week, telling Katie Couric: “I just do not think that she has those leadership qualities, that intellectual curiosity that allows for building good and great policies.”
Her next target was South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, the tea party favorite whose PAC spent generously to support Miller in the general election. “I think some of the Republicans in the Congress feel pretty strongly that he and his actions potentially cost us the majority,” she told POLITICO during a visit to Washington.
Murkowski even told MSNBC that she was heartened by “good, strong showings of support, not only from my Republican colleagues but from my colleagues on the Democrat side of the aisle” — a comment that recalls Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman’s embrace of some conservative colleagues after his 2006 Democratic primary loss.
“I’m working for all Alaskans,” she said. “I’ve got to be working with everybody in the United States Senate.”
It’s not yet clear that Murkowski’s ready to go as far as Lieberman and refashion herself as a party-straddling centrist, like Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) or Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Murkowski gave an intriguing hint when she said last week that she might support overturning the ban on openly gay military service members — potentially joining Lieberman and two other Republicans in the support of the bill, if a host of conditions are met.
What is already clear is that Murkowski’s taking every opportunity to settle scores after a bitter election. Alaska pollster Dave Dittman credited Murkowski with a "newfound sense of independence" that’s allowing her to swing back at people she perceives as having wronged her.
“Having won as a write-in without the support of national Republicans gives her the freedom to do that,” Dittman said. “Just from being here and watching it, Sen. Murkowski didn’t initiate it. Gov. Palin, I would say, would be the aggressor.”
Murkowski’s hostility toward Palin is nothing new: Palin defeated Murkowski’s father, former Gov. Frank Murkowski, in a 2006 primary, and Lisa Murkowski sternly criticized Palin’s decision to resign from office in 2009.
When the senator announced her write-in bid in September, she said it was time for Alaska voters to meet “one Republican woman who won’t quit on Alaska.”
Murkowski’s criticism is harsher now, and more insistent. Having defeated a Palin-backed candidate in their shared home state, Murkowski has little to fear from the former governor. And if Palin decides to run for president, it seems likely that she’ll have to contend with the critique of a particularly potent character witness — another Republican woman from Alaska.
“Certainly in Alaska, the visibility that she got off this, the stature that she gained from mounting and winning this write-in campaign — it’s incalculable,” said Larry Persily, a former journalist who has served in the administrations of multiple Alaska governors.
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