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Murkowski says Supreme Court’s abortion decision hurt Republicans in the midterms

Nov. 22, 2022 Updated Tue., Nov. 22, 2022 at 9:50 p.m.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said voters in her state reflected their independence and chose people over political parties.  (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images North America/TNS)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said voters in her state reflected their independence and chose people over political parties. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Riley Rogerson Anchorage Daily News Anchorage Daily News

WASHINGTON – Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in an interview that she thinks the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade contributed to the GOP’s underperformance in the midterms.

“I think the Republican Party, or certainly Republicans in Congress, are looking at the midterms now in the rearview mirror and saying, ‘All right, it was not the red wave that some believed it to be. And since it was not, why not?’ ” Murkowski said.

“Republicans nationally didn’t see a lot of support from (the) younger generation. OK, why is that?” she said.

“I think we’re going to see very clearly that the support from women more broadly was not what we want it to be as a party,” Murkowski said. “I attribute that to the Dobbs decision.”

Murkowski is on track to win re-election, with the most recent vote count showing her ahead of Kelly Tshibaka, her Trump-backed Republican opponent, in first-choice votes. Abortion emerged as a key issue in that race.

While Tshibaka has said she opposes abortion access, Murkowski is one of two incumbent Republican senators who supports codifying Roe v. Wade, and sought to do so both before and after the Supreme Court’s June decision. But she also opposed a Democratic-led effort to protect abortion rights that she said did not include enough limitations on abortion, like conscience protections for health care providers to deny abortion on religious grounds.

In the interview, Murkowski said that the Dobbs decision drove women voters in Alaska to the polls.

“I can tell you, as a candidate, that women in Alaska were very motivated to vote because of the Supreme Court ruling. They wanted to know that their right to an abortion would be protected. They wanted to know specifically, ‘What does it mean to codify Roe?’ ” Murkowski said. “And so I know, as one Republican candidate, that that was a motivating factor to women in my state.”

Murkowski said the Republican Party will have to look inward to bring voters, particularly young and female voters, back into the fold.

“I think we’re going to be looking at the elections and looking critically at this and saying, ‘All right, what can we as a party be doing to share a message that reflects Republican values but recognizes that there is a broad constituency out there that the party has not addressed?’ ” Murkowski said.

Murkowski added the caveat that “Alaska’s politics are different than the national politics.”

“Based on where the numbers are, it appears to me that we are going to return a very conservative governor to a second term. … It appears to me at this point in time that we’re going to send to Congress a moderate Democrat,” she said, referring to Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy and U.S. Rep Mary Peltola, a Democrat.

“And it appears to me, based on every interpretation that I have of the numbers and the confidence that I have in myself and my campaign, that this moderate Republican is going to be returned to office. And so you look at the landscape of that, and that’s not the norm in many other parts of the country,” she said.

“My takeaway is that Alaskans, once again, are reflecting their independence, they are reflecting that they will choose person over party. And that what they are seeking is a commitment to Alaska rather than a commitment to an individual,” Murkowski said.

Peltola also leaned into abortion access as a cornerstone of her campaign, while her Republican opponents, former Gov. Sarah Palin and businessman Nick Begich, both described themselves as “pro-life.” Peltola is also poised to win re-election, with about 48% of voters ranking her as their first choice.

“Choice really did seem to drive a lot of folks, including in Alaska,” said Peltola’s campaign manager, Anton McParland. “It’s not the primary issue for every person, but it definitely played out more than more than necessarily anticipated.”

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