When Alaska Republican senator Lisa Murkowski announced she would break with the rest of her party on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the chairman of the Alaska Republican Party did not hide his dismay:
[T]he chair of the Alaska Republican Party, Tuckerman Babcock, says he was “surprised” by Murkowski’s decision, saying he heard about it while he was making coffee at 5:30 Friday morning when his phone started ringing.
“It’s significant enough that I’m going to convene the whole state central committee, which is about 80 grassroots volunteers around the state, and we’ll start drafting what our response should be,” Babcock said.
Now the possibility of a more aggressive reaction is on the table, according to the Associated Press:
Alaska Republican party leaders plan to consider whether to reprimand U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for opposing Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation….
Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock says the committee could decide to issue a statement. Or he says it could withdraw support of Murkowski, encourage party officials to look for a replacement and ask that she not seek re-election as a Republican.
He says the party took that more extreme step previously with state legislators who caucused with Democrats.
The idea of denying Murkowski renomination is a bit far-fetched at the moment, since she’s not up for reelection until 2022. And it’s unlikely she’s that terrified of the state GOP, since she managed to get herself reelected in 2010 as a write-in candidate after losing the Republican primary to right-winger Joe Miller.
Alaska Republicans should also consider whether they are in danger of overreacting. Nastiness from conservatives has in the past pushed Republican senators into a party-switch — notably Vermont’s Jim Jeffords in 2001 (which flipped control of the Senate to the Democrats for a while), and Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter in 2009. Given the narrow GOP margin of control of the Senate, Republicans really can’t risk throwing away a Senate seat in a fit of pique. And it’s not like Murkowski is some raging liberal: according to FiveThirtyEight’s calculation, she has supported Donald Trump’s will on 83 percent of Senate votes.
For some conservatives, though, Murkowski’s pro-choice position is all that matters (after a couple of House retirements at the end of this year, she and Susan Collins will be the last pro-choice Republicans in the entire Congress). And voting against the Supreme Court nominee most Republicans happily expect to help erode reproductive rights must seem like the final straw.