It's possible Sen. Lisa Murkowski will win the Republican primary election, but the road to victory is challenging. By now, she must be contemplating what she will do if Joe Miller prevails after the final count.
• Accept the voters' verdict. This would require nothing more than a fold-up-your-tent press conference at which she thanks Alaskans for allowing her to serve and thanks her staff for their hard work. She could save the question of whether to endorse Miller for another day.
• Launch a write-in. She has the money and other campaign resources, but history is against her. Only one U.S. senator has been elected as a write-in -- Strom Thurmond of South Carolina in 1954. Wally Hickel tried a write in against Gov. Jay Hammond in 1978 and lost. It's incredibly difficult to get tens of thousands of people scattered over tens of thousands of square miles to write in your name, especially when some of them don't speak English, plus some voters will find the spelling test daunting: M U R K O W S K I. Better to be named Miller in a write in.
Who would prevail in a three-way contest? Polling suggests the race would be close, but in truth, nobody knows what would happen during a two-month campaign.
First of all, what kind of candidate will Democrat Scott McAdams make and what kind of campaign will he run? The guess is he will have money -- from Washington, mostly -- and find competent staffers, but he has never been on a large stage before as the mayor of Sitka, and who knows how he will perform under the greatest pressure of his life. Then there's this question: Would the Alaska voters, given their hostility to President Barack Obama and the national Democratic Party, actually put two Democrats in the United States Senate?
And what kind of campaign will Miller run in a general election facing intense national scrutiny? In the primary, he did a brilliant job of painting Lisa Murkowski as a Tony Knowles liberal. Could he do it again? Could he win occasional Democratic votes -- or make the Democratic Party irrelevant? We know Miller is extremely aggressive, extremely self-confident. Would his aggressiveness be perceived as recklessness? Would his self-confidence come across as arrogance? He seemed almost hysterical in denouncing the possibility that Murkowski would steal the election as he believes Democrat Al Franken did in Minnesota. Surely Miller, a lawyer, knows the Minnesota Supreme Court confirmed Franken's victory after a long legal process. The only thing Franken has stolen is his friends' jokes.
It may be that Murkowski will defeat Miller in the primary when all the votes are counted. If she doesn't, she's going to face a decision that will have consequences not just for her but for the entire Alaska electorate for years to come.
And if she's not a candidate in November, the next United States Senator from Alaska will be a man virtually unknown when the filing closed in May -- a man the heir to 30 years of Murkowskis.
Michael Carey is the former editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News. He can be reached at email@example.com.