Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks to members of the media after a vote to advance Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill, Friday, Oct. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Last night, sitting in a McDonald’s with my family (partly because we have yet to go grocery shopping after returning home from Christmas out of town and partly because my oldest demanded it as her “last meal” before getting her tonsils removed), I looked up to see CNN on one of the TVs in the dining area. The chyron read “Could Moderate Republicans Swing Impeachment Trial” or something like that.
Without being able to hear the talking heads, I knew exactly what they were saying: Lisa Murkowski, the “moderate” Republican from Alaska, has gone on record saying she’s “disturbed” that Mitch McConnell is coordinating with the White House ahead of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
The media loves to report this story because it’s the first sign of a crack in the unified Republican front against impeachment. They want you to believe that Trump is losing Republican support, and Murkowski is more than willing to be the face of “independence” from the Republican Party’s trajectory. The only problem with all this speculation and narrative shaping – which is what the media is doing rather than reporting this as a straight news story – is that it does not take into account several other factors that can take that speculation in the complete opposite direction.
First, there’s simply a matter of timing. Murkowski could be responding to a major ad buy targeting her in Alaska to try and get her to vote for Trump’s removal. The group “Republicans For Rule Of Law”, which is affiliated with anti-Trump Republican Bill Kristol, put out the ad to convince on-the-fence Republicans to turn on Trump. However, Murkowski has wiggle room. She’s not up for re-election until 2022. The voters don’t have a long enough attention span to care about Trump’s impeachment three years after the fact.
Not to mention the Republicans in the Senate are being led by Mitch McConnell, who has a tight grip over the Senate. McConnell is a force to be reckoned with, and is not above publicly chastising members if he has to, and for him to be silent for nearly 24 hours after Murkowski’s statements is a sign he’s probably given his approval to Murkowski to make these public statements to help her in her own state.
I still don’t see Murkowski voting against the party, largely because her re-election is still nearly three years out. Even if her voters aren’t happy with her not removing Trump from office, there’s a lot of time for things to change on the ground in her state. Burning all support from the Republican Party right now makes no sense. She’s not going to risk that because every choice she makes revolves around opportunism. How will this affect her if she goes with it? Against it?
Don’t see it happening. Apologies to all the folks in the media who are disappointed by that analysis, but remember to consult your doctors because it’s been more than four hours since Murkowski made her public comments.