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NRSC to Send Legal Advice for Murkowski

At the request of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s campaign, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is sending its chief counsel, Sean Cairncross, to Alaska for a few days to provide legal advice on ballot-counting and any recount that might ensue, sources said Thursday.

However, the NRSC is sending clear signals that it is not taking sides in the close primary contest between Murkowski, who is the Senate Republican Conference vice chairwoman, and Fairbanks attorney Joe Miller. The absentee ballots have yet to be counted, which could take up to two weeks, and they could swing the race. But with all precincts reporting, Miller leads the contest 51 percent to 49 percent.

On Wednesday, one day after an election that appeared to be unfolding as a stunning upset, NRSC Executive Director Rob Jesmer spoke with a Miller campaign official to assure the potential GOP nominee that he would have the full support of the committee if he is the winner after all the votes are counted.

Cairncross is expected to provide advice to the Murkowski campaign while he is in Alaska. But the NRSC does not plan to fund or coordinate any recount or legal challenge to the final outcome on Murkowski’s behalf, even though as the incumbent, committee officials are naturally rooting for her to make up the 1,668 votes she needs to pull out a victory.

Sources confirmed that the NRSC discussed the primary with Murkowski and her team two months ago and that the Senator declined to follow committee recommendations that she spend more of her campaign cash, including using it on advertising to negatively define Miller. The Murkowski campaign felt doing so would only elevate Miller and believed that the Senator was headed to a win with the strategy that was in place.

On Tuesday, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) released a neutral statement guaranteeing only that the seat would remain Republican. “As we await the final outcome of the Republican primary in Alaska, one thing is clear — this seat will remain in Republican hands this November,” he said.

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