The Times has a knee-jerk habit of bucking up anti-conservative candidates, and William Yardley provided encouragement to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska senator who was defeated in the Republican primary by a candidate backed by the Tea Party, and is now running a quixotic write-in campaign to retain her seat. "Dark Horse Emerges in Alaska: The Incumbent."
It's an awfully thin argument, especially for a front-page story. If there is compelling evidence that Murkowski can overcome history and win, it's well buried. Yardley conceded Murkowski has an uphill fight against Tea Party-backed Joe Miller and the Democrat Scott McAdams.
The night Lisa Murkowski announced she would mount a write-in campaign to retain her Senate seat, she acknowledged to a crowd of supporters that her odds were slim. Then she prompted a defiant roar: invoking Native Alaskan culture, she told the crowd that the ancient Aleut language contained no word for "impossible."
It was a deft play to the state's strong sense of identity and a direct appeal to native communities, whose support could prove crucial. It was also inaccurate. The word in Aleut is haangina-lix.
"It's very clear that you can say 'impossible,' " said Gary Holton, the director of the Alaska Native Language Archive. "Clearly, she wasn't checking her facts."
The facts line up starkly against Ms. Murkowski: The only person ever elected to the United States Senate as a write-in candidate was Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, in 1954. No one in Alaska has ever been elected statewide as a write-in. Joe Miller, the Tea Party star who narrowly defeated Ms. Murkowski in the Republican primary, now has the support of the Washington Republican establishment and is raising money quickly.
Yet despite all that, Yardley spun Murkowski as a rising insurgent herself:
So why do plenty of people here, from analysts to many rank-and-file Republicans, think that Ms. Murkowski, 53, who first came to office through the easiest route imaginable (her father, then the governor, appointed her in 2002), could well pull off the impossible?
Because in a matter of weeks, she has morphed from establishment incumbent to renegade underdog. For many, it might seem crushing to go from sitting senator to plaintive write-in, but Ms. Murkowski is using it to her advantage, painting herself as the maverick in this race.
Asked how he would run against the revived Murkowski campaign, [Miller] said, "Same message, work harder." He noted that the senator had suggested that she would run aggressive ads against Mr. Miller, after barely engaging with him in the primary election.
The Times provided no evidence the Murkowski campaign has "revived" in any way other than she is still running. A Rasmussen poll last week showed Miller with a 15-point lead in a three-way race between he, Murkowski, and Democrat McAdams.