President Trump reserved some of his harshest words in the fallout over the battle to confirm new Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh for the sole Republican senator who refused to support the nomination.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was the object of the president’s ire as the dust began to settle, and it was clear Trump was sending a strong message that he had no use for liberal Republicans who for so long have trumpeted their “independence” as an excuse to thwart GOP initiatives.
“I think she will never recover from this,” Trump told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “I think the people from Alaska will never forgive her for what she did.” Declaring that Alaska voters “will not forget” Murkowski’s decision, Trump emphasized that “[w]hat she did was unacceptable. Really unacceptable.”
Appointed by her father, Sen. Frank Murkowski, to take his place after he was elected governor in 2002, the pro-choice self-styled “moderate” has never been truly embraced by Alaska Republicans. She was defeated in a 2010 primary race by Joe Miller, yet won re-election as a write-in candidate. She was re-elected in 2016 with only 44% of the popular vote.
Alaska Republicans were appalled by Murkowski’s Kavanaugh stance, and have begun talking about issuing some sort of reprimand against her. Tuckerman Babcock, state chair of the Alaska Republican Party, said he was surprised by her decision and that party members were outraged.
“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 told KTUU in Anchorage.
Babcock said the phone system at the party’s Anchorage headquarters crashed after 200 irate callers reached out to voice their anger at Murkowski shortly after she announced her decision to oppose Kavanaugh. Only two callers supported the senator, Babcock stated. “Among Republicans the response is pretty uniformly negative.”
Daniel Horowitz, writing at Conservative Review, notes:
“A healthy conservative movement would have ensured that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and party leaders denied Murkowski support for the GOP nomination in 2016 after she left the party in 2010, was pro-abortion, and failed to exhibit a modicum of support for anything in the party’s platform.”
Two other moderate Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan(R-WI) and Sen. Jeff Flake(R-AZ), see the writing on the wall. Refusing to work with a president who firmly has the support of the grassroots at his back, Ryan and Flake both have chosen not to run for re-election. The future appears to be every bit as bleak for Murkowski, though she is not up for re-election until 2022.
By taking a hard line with the “independent” Republicans who have weakened the GOP for so long, Trump is steering a strong course for 2020 and beyond.
Murkowski’s future in the Trump Republican Party may prove a dismal affair. Should she find herself adrift without footing like Ryan and Flake, unwilling to board the Trump Train and completely unable to stop it, she may find herself simply left behind.