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Murkowski to Palin: Hands Off My Senate Seat

Now that Sen. Ted Stevens is out of the Senate, nixing a chance for a special election in Alaska, Gov. Sarah Palin might be eyeing another potential seat — Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska), Politico reports.

Murkowski, appointed to the Senate in 2002 by her father when he took office as governor of Alaska, is up for re-election in 2010. (Murkowski won her seat the old-fashioned way in 2004.) In an interview with Politico, Murkowski warned Palin that she shouldn’t even consider a short stop in the Senate as a means to the White House. But what if Palin does anyway?

“I can guarantee it would be a very tough election,” Murkowski said in an interview.

Murkowski isn’t kidding. The two arctic pols have a turbulent history. In 2006, Palin knocked Murkowksi’s father out of the Republican primary by essentially accusing then-sitting Gov. Frank Murkowski of corruption, lumping him in with more dubious characters in the state legislature. The message was appealing to voters who were sick of Murkowski’s tone-deaf moves, including appointing his own daughter to his Senate seat and flying around the state in a private jet.

While Lisa Murkowski might have beef with Palin, Palin’s got her own problems with Murkowski. When Lisa got the nod from her father to take his Senate seat, Palin was reportedly miffed.

But who would win in a match up?

Both women have high approval ratings in Alaska. Murkowski is particularly popular in rural parts of the state, while Palin has done well in the more highly-populated area surrounding Wasilla, her hometown.

The race would be close, one Republican consultant told Politico.

A key factor to keep in mind: seniority. Alaska depends on federal money to survive. That money tends to come easier the longer you’re representatives have been around Capitol Hill. Stevens and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) are famous at home and infamous nationally for their incredible ability to bring home billions worth of bacon.

With Stevens out, Alaskans might not want to replace Murkowski with Palin, knowing that Palin would likely be eager to move on in just a few years:

“My feeling is that Alaskans wouldn’t respond to that very well, especially Republicans, if she takes on Lisa and she starts seniority all over again,” [David} Dittman, [a Republican pollster] said. “I think it would be tough for Sarah to do that and justify it.”

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