Nightly News | September 22, 2010
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we turn to this upcoming midterm election, which has already turned a number of incumbents into lame ducks. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski was on her way to that same fate. She lost the GOP primary to tea party candidate Joe Miller . But now she's decided to run as a write-in candidate, something her own party does not seem too happy about. Our own Lee Cowan has our report tonight from Anchorage .
LEE COWAN reporting: The last frontier is perhaps the last place you'd think Republicans would still be midterm squabbling, but Senator Lisa Murkowski is getting boos from her GOP colleagues for relaunching her Senate bid after she already lost.
Senator LISA MURKOWSKI: I'm not splitting a ticket here. I'm going to lead the ticket. I believe, as so many Alaskans believe, that I will win this race.
COWAN: Her opponent is Joe Miller , a Fairbanks lawyer who came out of nowhere last month to beat the freshman senator.
Mr. MICHAEL CAREY (Anchorage Daily News): He painted her as a liberal, as too liberal for Alaska and was able to score some points, and her response was pretty weak to inept.
COWAN: Miller got a lot of money from the Tea Party Express and the endorsement of Sarah Palin , who told voters, in a glitzy new national ad this week, races like his are sweeping the nation.
COWAN: Miller 's message is ultraconservative, campaigning to end what he called the welfare state in part by phasing out Social Security and Medicare , views Murkowski calls extreme.
Mr. JOE MILLER: Describing me and our voters as extreme -- and there's been worse words that have been used to describe as, as well -- she's basically painting a broad brush, I think, over Alaskans as a whole.
COWAN: Murkowski says a wave of last minute support forced her back into campaign mode, but even Republican pollsters say that's not the way the process works.
Mr. DAVE DITTMAN (Republican Pollster): It's kind of hard to say, 'I'm listening to my constituents to run again.' 'But wait a minute, didn't your constituents just speak?' 'Well, yeah, but I didn't like what they said.'
COWAN: She admits it's a long shot. No one has successfully mounted a Senate write-in campaign since Strom Thurmond did it more than 50 years ago. But she's got a lot of money and a lot of name recognition, something most write-ins don't. And if this race surprised the pundits once,