Murkowski says she’d choose Manchin over Biden, and says Trump ‘should be done’

Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin at a 2022 symposium in Anchorage. The two centerists are allies, particularly on energy issues. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski would consider supporting Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin for U.S. president next year.

“If it’s a match-up between Biden and Trump, I know exactly where I’d go,” Murkowski said in an interview for this week’s episode of the PBS show Firing Line. “I would go with Joe Manchin.”

Murkowski is one of only seven Republican senators who voted to convict former President Trump after his second indictment in 2021. In the PBS interview, she mentioned Tim Scott and Nikki Haley as other strong Republican candidates, and she made it clear she believes Trump is unqualified.

“In my view, this former president incited an insurrection on the Capitol. To me, it should be  – it should be done. It should be over,” she said. But apparently, for many Republicans in this country, they have chosen to look beyond that.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Va., and Murkowski, R-Alaska, are centrists and allies, particularly on energy issues. He hasn’t announced he’s running for president, but he participated in a forum Monday in New Hampshire for a group called No Labels that is pushing the idea of a “unity ticket,” or a third option for president. Many Democrats see it as a back-door effort to split the left, ensuring that Trump returns to the White House.

While Murkowski said she’d prefer Manchin over President Joe Biden, she also said she’d have to do some “serious evaluation” to ensure supporting a third-party candidate wouldn’t lead to a second term for Trump.

Murkowski also endorsed Alaska’s new voting system, which combines a nonpartisan primary with ranked choice voting. She said it’s especially good for the majority of Alaskans who aren’t affiliated with either major party and “don’t feel like there’s any real incentive to participate” in a party primary.

“And then they get into the general election, and what they’ve been given are two individuals on the extremes of both sides,” she said. “And they look at that and say, ‘How do I have a voice in this?’ Ranked choice gives them that voice.”

Critics say that the ranked choice ballot is complicated and alienates voters. Murkowski likened it to ordering from a restaurant menu.

“We can prioritize. It’s not hard,” she said.

Murkowski is on the outs with many of the Republican party leaders in Alaska, who don’t like her support for abortion rights or her vote to convict Trump. She won re-election last year with the help of many moderates and Democrats. She achieved a slim majority of first-place votes, and her lead grew once ranked choices were tabulated.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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