Sen. John Barrasso said Sunday he’d back Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski for reelection, breaking with former President Donald Trump not long after he vowed to campaign against her.
“I want to always make sure we nominate somebody who can win in November,” Barrasso, the No. 3 Senate Republican, said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” of the 2022 midterm elections. “Lisa Murkowski knows Alaska better than anybody, and she’s an incredible fighter for American energy.”
The Wyoming Republican cautioned that Murkowski — who has held her seat since 2002 — has not officially declared she would seek another term, but “if she does, I’m going to support her.”
Murkowski is one of seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial but is the only one of that cohort to face reelection next year.
Trump on Saturday declared that he would not endorse Murkowski “under any circumstances.”
“She represents her state badly and her country even worse,” he said in a statement to POLITICO. “I do not know where other people will be next year, but I know where I will be — in Alaska campaigning against a disloyal and very bad Senator.”
The GOP is grappling internally with how best to proceed with Trump out of the White House but still in command of a fervent political base and an ardent desire to remain a force in Republican politics. POLITICO Playbook reported Saturday that Trump has sent cease-and-desist letters to the RNC, NRSC and NRCC demanding they stop using his name and likeness to fundraise without his permission, an unsubtle indication of his displeasure with the party apparatus.
The broadside against Murkowski came days after she voted to advance the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to serve as Interior secretary — the only Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to do so. Trump cited that move as a recent example of the need to install someone else in Murkowski’s seat.
Murkowski had been one of the few Republicans who’d periodically criticize Trump in public, a position that made her a frequent target of the former president.
Murkowski, who succeeded her father, Frank Murkowski, in the Senate, has also proved a difficult person for Republicans to unseat. She managed to win as a write-in candidate after losing a GOP primary in 2010, and Alaska has since switched to a ranked-choice voting system that will pit candidates of all parties against one another in an open primary, with the top four vote-getters advancing to the general election.
Barrasso also said he stood by Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who like Murkowski has become a top target of Trump’s after she broke with her party to impeach him earlier this year.
“I support her,” he said Sunday, while noting “I disagree with her completely on the issue of impeachment.”
Cheney has already fended off an attempt by Republican House members aligned with Trump to strip her of her leadership post.