Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s shifted support for President-elect Donald Trump

Choosing which candidate to support throughout the 2016 presidential election was a challenge for many American voters, and it was no different for Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

As an Alaskan U.S Senator and a member of the Republican party, Murkowski was expected to endorse then-Republican candidate Donald Trump in this year’s election. It wasn’t until many months into the presidential debates that Murkowski no longer advocated for a Trump presidency.

Alongside Murkowski was Sen. Dan Sullivan, who also turned his back on Trump when the world witnessed his “troubling” words throughout this year’s election, and some from his past.

Although neither Murkowski or Sullivan thought Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was presidential material, they were hesitant to endorse someone that did not seem qualified for a job in the Oval Office.

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Alaska Dispatch News Columnist Dermot Cole, who has covered Alaskan politics and history for nearly 40 years, was not surprised to see Murkowski’s change of heart.

“She was restrained in her comments early on and limited them to statements that she had always backed Republican presidential candidates. She was never wild about Trump, that’s clear. Later, she said she had not decided what to do. In the end, she took a position after the release of the Trump tape,” Cole said. “In retrospect, I think that she made the right decision. As to her position now, I think she has to work with whoever is president. It will be interesting to see whether Trump holds it against her and Sen. Sullivan for saying what they did.”

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All along, the Alaskan congressional delegation has said, like Murkowski, that they will support the republican candidate all the way through the general election. If this is true, why did we see reluctance towards the end of the polls?

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Many Alaskans question Murkowski and political company regarding their inconsistency throughout the 2016 election.

Forrest Nabors, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at UAA thinks that the inconsistency of Alaskan politicians seems rather typical.

“Alaskan Republicans and Independents will probably accept Senator Murkowski’s swings between supporting and abandoning Trump because national Republicans and Independents likewise swung like pendulums during the campaign. Before the election polls showed that support for the respective major party candidates was tepid, many voting for the least bad candidate rather than voting for the best candidate,” Nabors said.

Nabors appreciates Murkowski’s ability to express her own point of view on president-elect Donald Trump.

“Her support for the victor would be understandable now, but she has not, to my knowledge, expressed her support without qualification to date. Like some other Republican Senators, she will probably work with President Trump when she can and oppose him when she deems she must. We ought to remember, however, that what prompted her to withdraw support was not a policy issue but a character issue – the revelation of the audiotape when he bragged about his sexual prowess,” Nabors said. “In the Congress, they debate and enact policy, so it is likely that they will find common ground, especially on energy policy. She said as much on election night when she noted that Trump’s election would be good for Alaska because his views on unleashing the energy economy are aligned with her interest in developing Alaska’s energy resources.”

Nathaniel Herz, an ADN reporter who covers politics and government understands the position that Murkowski was in as a republican state senate.

“I think it’s not unexpected, we saw sort of a similar shift from Dan Sullivan…these guys are both going to be in Washington, Sullivan for the next four years, Murkowski for the next six years and Donald Trump is going to be there for the next four years, and they’re going to have to work with them,” Herz said. “I don’t think it’s particularly different than what we’ve seen from President Obama, from even folks like I think Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have also said where we disagree with the President-elect — but he’s going to be the next president and so we’re going to have to work with him. I think it’s almost exactly what you would expect from all those guys.”

After the polls closed, and Donald Trump was announced President-elect, Murkowski seemed eager to congratulate Trump in his victory. Whether or not the Alaskan senate’s reluctant support will affect the future relationship between the two is to be determined.