Following the resounding 58-to-17 vote over the weekend of the Alaska Republican Party's State Committee to endorse insurgent Kelly Tshibaka over incumbent GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, there was mounting speculation the veteran lawmaker would leave the party.
Murkowski, the speculation went, would follow in the path of the late Sen. Jim Jeffords, R-Vt., who became an independent in 2001 and voted with Democrats for Senate control.
A similar move by Murkowski would give Senate Democrats a leg up on enacting legislation sought by President Joe Biden — not to mention a crucial vote on weakening the filibuster with which Republicans have held up much of the Biden agenda.
By all accounts, however, this is not going to happen.
In large part, the argument goes, Murkowski has the luxury of remaining because of the "ranked choice" voting system (RCV) to which Alaskans will select nominees for the first time in 2022.
Instead of two primaries, in which each party chooses a candidate for the general election in November, Alaska will hold one open primary from which the top four candidates, regardless of party, proceed to the general election.
In November, the voter will rank the candidates in order of preference from first to fourth. The candidate with the fewest ''first place'' votes is eliminated, and voters' second choice becomes a first-place vote for the remaining candidates.
"I doubt Sen. Murkowski will change parties," Henry Olsen, senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and syndicated columnist, told Newsmax. "Under the RCV, the top four candidates in the initial balloting will proceed to the general election and this will allow independents and Democrats to support Murkowski."
Also working to Murkowski's advantage is no heavyweight Democrat has entered the Senate race thus far. While 2020 Democrat hopeful Al Gross has said he is considering the '22 contest, he has not yet decided to become a candidate.
In large part because of Murkowski's vote to impeach Donald Trump, the former president has strongly endorsed onetime state Commissioner of Administration Tshibaka, vowing to come to the Land of the Midnight Sun and campaign for her.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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