NRSC sends lawyer to help Murkowski, will not aid Miller unless nominated

After news that the National Republican Senatorial Committee is sending its chief counsel to aid Alaskan incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, I called to ask whether the NRSC would be providing legal counsel to Murkowski’s challenger, Joe Miller and the answer was no. NRSC chairman John Cornyn, R-Texas, had pledged not to get involved in primaries, and Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the committee, was emphatic that Cornyn’s pledge was against getting involved in open primaries. It’s true:

“We will not spend money in a contested primary,” Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told ABC News in a telephone interview today. “There’s no incentive for us to weigh in,” said Cornyn, R-Texas. “We have to look at our resources. . . . We’re not going to throw money into a [primary] race leading up to the election.”

Cornyn said his pledge extends to races for open Senate seats — not incumbents who may face primaries next year. The NRSC so far has endorsed candidates in four open Senate seats — Florida, Missouri, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

Emphasis mine. Murkowski is in trouble at a time when Joe Miller, a relative unknown, came from behind to take the advantage from the incumbent.

Murkowski asked Sean Cairncross to help her campaign prepare for the counting of as many as 16,000 absentee ballots cast before Tuesday’s primary. Republican officials say the National Republication Senatorial Committee’s chief counsel will spend a few days in Alaska.

With all precincts reporting, heavily favored Murkowski trailed conservative lawyer Joe Miller by 1,668 votes, leaving both hoping that uncounted absentee ballots will give them the victory. Officials will start counting absentee ballots next Tuesday.

The logic is sound — the NRSC chairman is elected by senators, who also do fundraising for the committee with the expectation that the committee will help them in turn. But try explaining that to supporters of Joe Miller who take this as yet another example of the Washington establishment swooping in from afar. Walsh also said, “It’s not like we’re spending money for ads.” After all, Cairncross is already on staff, so it’s not a very notable expenditure. Besides, “It doesn’t mean we would fund a recount effort,” Walsh continued. Walsh said that if nominated, Miller would get the NRSC’s full support.

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