November 23, 2010 Leave a comment
DeMint, Murkowski spat shows larger GOP split
By JAMES ROSEN – McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — For all his success in helping elect ultraconservatives to the Senate, Sen. Jim DeMint is still fighting to avoid what could be a huge failure.
Even as DeMint says he would welcome fellow Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski back to the Senate, the South Carolinian is still urging conservative activists around the country to donate money to replace the incumbent with Tea Party favorite Joe Miller through a legal appeal.DeMint, who raised $5.6 million for ultraconservative GOP candidates this year, attached a personal appeal letter to a “CONTRIBUTE” banner and a photo of Miller at the top of http://www.senateconservatives.com, the Web site of his Senate Conservatives Fund.
“Joe Miller can win this race, but he’s up against a well-financed legal team that is working for Lisa Murkowski,” DeMint wrote. “They will be fighting to bend the law in Alaska, which requires write-in ballots to accurately state the candidate’s name.”Before a federal judge on Friday temporarily froze the final outcome, Murkowski appeared to have won a historic write-in campaign against Miller in the Nov. 2 general election in the home state of the face of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, overcoming DeMint’s contribution of more than $627,000 to Miller.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline suspended Murkowski’s certification as winner provided that Miller demand a recount in state court by today, a step Miller was prepared to take despite the long odds of overtaking Murkowski’s 2,000-or-so vote lead.Miller won Alaska’s Aug. 25 Senate Republican primary, prompting Murkowski to launch her write-in effort — and setting off a bitter, drawn-out exchange of actions and words with DeMint that may not end any time soon.Murkowski has responded coolly to DeMint’s recent peace signals.
“He has suggested that he’s got some making up to do,” Murkowski told CNN on Nov. 12. “I’ll let him make the first move.”Beyond its political intrigue, the DeMint-Murkowski tussle reveals the deeper ideological struggle within the Republican Party between hard-liners unwilling to bend their principles and moderates who say governing requires compromise.
DeMint’s badly damaged relationship with Murkowski also shows the tightrope he’s treading as he tries to remake the Senate in his ultraconservative image from inside the august chamber while backing anti-establishment rabble-rousers on the outside.While Miller still pursued a recount, Washington insiders regarded Murkowski’s victory as a done deal.