Donald Trump has blamed his loss and downfall on a number of Republicans. But he seems particularly bitter toward Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who voted to convict and remove him from office during his second impeachment trial. Accordingly, pro-Trump sycophants within the Republican Party have been gunning for her.
This came to a head over the weekend when the Republican Party of Alaska formally endorsed Murkowski’s 2022 Republican challenger, a far right Trump lackey. This puts Murkowski in the strange position of being both the incumbent and the outsider in the 2022 race – and it leaves her with some interesting options.
There are a lot of people on social media right now who think that Lisa Murkowski will, or should, abandon the Republican Party and join the Democrats. More realistically, this might look something more like Murkowski becoming a registered Independent and then caucusing with Senate Democrats. But it would still give them an additional vote in the Senate – or would it?
The thing is, Murkowski isn’t that much of a maverick. She voted with Trump about three-quarters of the time. And in a number of the instances where she voted against Trump, her vote wasn’t the deciding vote, meaning it was more symbolic than anything. So could Murkowski realistically pull off caucusing with a Democratic Party that she’s spent her career voting against most of the time?
Even if she did begin caucusing with Senate Democrats, she probably wouldn’t reliably vote with them. And the Democrats already have majority control, even if it’s fragile in nature. Still, the Democrats would surely love the optics of a fairly high profile Republican Senator quitting the Republican Party on principle and at least partially joining the Democrats.
Here’s the thing about Lisa Murkowski. She’s shown that she’ll do whatever it takes to try to get reelected. When she lost to a Republican primary challenger in 2010, she ran in the general election as a write-in candidate and won. This suggests she’s more popular with Alaskans at large than she is with Alaskan Republicans, meaning perhaps she could survive becoming an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats.
But it also makes clear that whatever decision Murkowski makes going forward, it’ll surely be whatever she thinks will give her the best chance of winning in 2022. Would she be better off trying to defeat Trump’s candidate in the Republican primary race? Would she fare better by becoming an Independent and face Trump’s candidate and a Democrat in a three-way race? Would her winning path be to run as an Independent but partner with the Democrats, so that she doesn’t face any serious Democratic competition in the general election?
Lisa Murkowski has already shown us who she is: she’s going to vote however she feels like voting, regardless of which party she’s formally aligned with. Whatever option she thinks gives her the best chance of keeping her seat in 2022, that’s the one she’ll go with – and that’s anyone’s guess. But it sure could be a game changer if someone as high profile as Murkowski left the Republican Party as part of the post-Trump fallout, and prospered as a result.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report