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Republican lawyer heads to Alaska for Lisa Murkowski

Alaska attorney Joe Miller leads Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the state's Republican Senate primary. AP photo

Sean Cairncross, the general counsel of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is headed to Alaska at the request of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) to help provide guidance to the GOP incumbent who finds herself trailing attorney Joe Miller (R) by roughly 1,600 votes.

Cairncross will spend several days on the ground in Alaska as Murkowski and her campaign prepare for the counting of as many as 16,000 absentee ballots -- a process expected to start next Tuesday and continue through early September.

Committee sources insisted that too much should not be read into Cairncross' presence in Alaska -- only that the NRSC is an incumbent-retention committee and, as such, provides assistance when Senators ask for it.

As evidence that the committee is not putting all of its chips on Murkowski, a GOP source tells the Fix that Rob Jesmer, the bespectacled executive director of the NRSC, spoke by phone with a top Miller aide yesterday -- making clear that if he wins the election the committee will support him wholeheartedly.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Miller stood at 47,027 votes to Murkowski's 45,359 votes.

Murkowski's hope lies in the 16,000 absentee ballots that had been requested in advance of Tuesday's primary. Slightly less than half that number -- 7,600 -- had been returned.

Counting of absentee ballots will begin next Tuesday. Additional counting -- if necessary -- would take place Sept. 3 and Sept. 8.

Murkowski allies continue to hold out hope, noting that Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) trailed then Sen. Ted Stevens (R) on election night 2008 but went on to win by nearly 4,000 votes.

Fair enough. But, Begich benefited greatly from a major voter identification and early vote turnout from President Barack Obama's campaign -- a luxury Murkowski didn't enjoy.

Democrats sought to make noise about the candidacy of Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams (D) on Wednesday but even if Miller holds on to his current lead, it's hard to imagine national Democrats spending money in the Last Frontier.

By Chris Cillizza  | August 26, 2010; 11:03 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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