What John McCain Could Have Taught Lisa Murkowski

If you’re an incumbent running in 2010 with a challenge on the right, go after your opponent, and go after them hard:

Murkowski appeared largely unconcerned with Miller’s challenge despite the Palin endorsement and the struggles other GOP incumbents had encountered in trying to defend their TARP vote.

She was urged by senior leadership at the National Republican Senatorial Committee to go negative on Miller in a meeting two months ago but rejected that advice, insisting that attack ads were not how politics were conducted in Alaska, according to a source familiar with the gathering.

By refusing to define Miller early on in the race, Murkowski gave away her biggest advantage: money. (On Aug. 4, Murkowski reported $1.86 million in her campaign warchest; Miller had just $84,000 in the bank at that time.)


* Arizona Sen. John McCain walloped former Rep. J.D. Hayworth in the state’s Republican primary. With nearly all votes counted, McCain led by 24 points — a victory long expected after the incumbent destroyed his opponent’s credibility as a conservative with a devastating ad portraying him as a “huckster”.

Now, there are many differences between Alaska and Arizona and it’s hard to predict what might have happen if the campaign had gone differently, but surely Murkowski’s decision to not go negative on Miller will be counted as a strategic and tactical error regardless of whether or not she loses.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, Quick Takes, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Proving yet again that the answer to the question: “why is politics so negative?” is “because it works.”

  2. Juneau: says:

    If Palin had not endorsed McCain, I believe he likely would have lost this race. The only reason I say “likely’ is because Hayworth was not a great candidate in many ways. There’s something about him that is too glib and quick (missing our old friend, gravitas?).

    At any rate, the Palin endorsement, which caused a bit of a stir in the media and the TEA party, was undoubtedly central to McCains victory.

  3. The Palin endorsement surely helped get the fire started for McCain, but had he not gone negative on JD early, it wouldn’t have been enough I think.

    Also, as I have said repeatedly throughout the summer, if McCain had been forced to face a better opponent — like Shaddegg or Flake — it would have been harder for him to pull this off. Neither one of them had the negatives that McCain was so easily able to exploit when it came to Hayworth.