Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) remains unbeatable in her home state despite her opposition to Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination — a view at odds with President Trump.
“She’s about as strong as you can possibly be in Alaska. Nobody’s going to beat her,” McConnell told the Associated Press as part of a wide-ranging interview.
Murkowski, whose seat is on the ballot in 2022, last week voted against advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination and voted “present” on the final confirmation vote, calling Trump’s nominee “a good man” but “not the right man for the court at this time.”
That prompted Trump to predict that Murkowski — the only GOP senator to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination — would go down in defeat if she runs for reelection.
In a brief telephone interview Saturday with The Washington Post, Trump said voters in Alaska “will never forgive” Murkowski.
“I think she will never recover from this,” he said. “I think the people from Alaska will never forgive her for what she did.”
“She’s certainly going to recover,” McConnell told the AP, pointing to Murkowski’s resilience in her 2010 election.
In that race, Murkowski was defeated in the Republican primary by Joe Miller, a tea party candidate backed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R). But Murkowski prevailed in the general election as a write-in candidate, becoming the first U.S. senator to do so in more than 50 years.
Murkowski weighed in herself Wednesday, telling reporters at the Capitol that she was not overly concerned by Trump’s criticism.
“My barometer is not necessarily what the president says but what the people of Alaska say,” she said.
Murkowski said that she had gotten a mixed reaction from constituents since coming out against Kavanaugh but added that would have been the case regardless of how she voted: “I’m not guided by the polling out there, that’s for sure, but on this one, Alaskans were pretty much split down the middle. And so you knew going into it that if you vote one way, you’re going to make half the people happy and half the people not happy.”
“I agonized, I considered, and ultimately I had a decision to make that was based on the best judgment that I had, and I had to follow my conscience,” she added. “I did that, and I’m good with where my conscience has taken me.”
Later, in a floor speech, Murkowski stuck up for fellow Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who was also undecided until the final days before Kavanaugh’s confirmation but ultimately voted yes — earning her the enmity of liberal protesters.
“I would just urge us all choose our words carefully,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to speak with kindness towards one another. Don’t be afraid to call out the good in somebody else, even though you have voted against them. We are better than we’re seeing right now.”
Kavanaugh’s nomination was roiled late in the process by the emergence of three women who accused him of decades-old sexual misconduct.
Palin suggested last week that she might mount a Republican primary challenge against Murkowski in 2022.
“I can see 2022 from my house,” Palin tweeted Friday.
That was a play on words from a 2008 “Saturday Night Live” sketch in which actress Tina Fey, playing Palin, said, “I can see Russia from my house.”
Asked Wednesday whether she would run again in 2022, Murkowski brushed off the question: “I don’t have to make that decision for four years.”