The Alaska Republican State Central Committee voted overwhelmingly — 58-17 — to throw its support behind former Alaska Department of Administration commissioner Kelly Tshibaka, who is the most high-profile challenger to Murkowski as she seeks a fifth term in 2022.
Why would the top Republicans in Alaska abandon Murkowski, who has been the state’s senator since 2002, in droves? Two words: Donald Trump.
The former President has made Murkowski enemy No. 1 because she, uh, voted to convict him for inciting the January 6 riot at the US Capitol. (Six other Republicans joined Murkowski in that vote; she is the only one running for reelection in November 2022.)
While Trump had long made clear his unhappiness with Murkowski, he took it to another level in endorsing Tshibaka.
“Lisa Murkowski is bad for Alaska,” Trump said in a statement released from his Save America PAC. “Murkowski has got to go! Kelly Tshibaka is the candidate who can beat Murkowski—and she will. Kelly is a fighter who stands for Alaska values and America First. She is MAGA all the way, pro-energy, strong on the Border, tough on Crime and totally supports our Military and our great Vets.”
And since what Trump says goes — particularly at the state party level — what happened over the weekend in Alaska was utterly predictable.
Trump said Murkowski wasn’t appropriately loyal to him (she voted with him more than 70% of the time, according to 538, but whatever), so it must be true.
Trump endorsed Tshibaka. So the Alaska GOP had to do the same. Because, well, Trump.
Losing the endorsement of the state central committee doesn’t prove Tshibaka will beat Murkowski for a lot of reasons — the most important being that there will be an all-party primary in 2022, with ranked-choice voting used to determine the winner. And don’t forget that in 2010, Murkowski was beaten in a Republican primary by a tea party-backed challenger. She managed to win reelection by running a write-in campaign during the general election.
What it does prove is that the GOP is still entirely under Trump’s control.
The Point: Donald Trump rules by fear. And Alaska Republicans are running scared.