Lisa Murkowski Unleashes Secret Weapon: Ted Stevens

According to this new ad from Alaska Senate candidate Lisa Murkowski, the Murkowski camp decided not to release an ad featuring Alaska political legend Ted Stevens during the primary because Stevens died a few days after the spot was cut.

Murkowski went on to lose the primary to Tea Party-backed challenges Joe Miller. Now Murkowski, who has embarked on a write-in general election campaign, is putting the ad out - in the most delicate way possible.

The minute-long spot opens with Stevens' daughter explaining that "my father made a campaign commercial for Lisa that was scheduled to run just days after we lost him."

"Putting our family before her campaign, Lisa made certain the ad did not air out of respect to my dad and our family," she continues. "Now, my family and I want you to hear for yourself how strongly he felt about the need to reelect Lisa."

The ad then shows Stevens, who says, in part, "we need Lisa and the seniority she's earned now more than ever." It then cuts to Murkowski, who, standing next to Stevens' daughter, thanks the Stevens family.

Ted Stevens' mention of Murkowski's seniority fits well with Murkowski's embrace of her ability to bring pork back to her heavily-subsidized home state - something Miller largely opposes. The position has helped her in at least one way: As Politico reports, a group called Alaskans Standing Together spent $600,000 on ads pushing Murkowski this week. The group, created by Alaska's Native regional corporations, "see Murkowski's seniority as their lifeline to federal funds, which are in high demand in many of the state's more remote villages," Politico notes.

While write-in candidacies are notoriously difficult (and difficult to poll), a survey of likely voters from Rasmussen out yesterday suggests Murkowski is right in the thick of the race: Miller takes 35 percent of the vote in the survey, while Murkowski takes 34 percent. (Democrat Scott McAdams comes in third with 27 percent.) Less than a month ago, Miller led Murkowski 42 percent to 27 percent.

Alaska election officials have said they will take into account voter intent in considering write-in ballots. That means that even if voters misspell Murkoski's name , almost all votes for her will presumably count. Still, it is not clear that the support pollsters find for a write-in candidate will necessarily translate to the ballot box in the same way support does for a candidate whose name is actually on the ballot.

Critical Contests: Interactive Map with CBS News' Race Ratings


Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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