Tim Scott defends Murkowski endorsement amid blowback from the right: ‘I like to win’

EXCLUSIVE — Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., on Thursday defended his endorsement of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, for re-election, amid blowback from some Republicans who support her Trump-endorsed opponent, Kelly Tshibaka.

“The road to socialism runs right through a divided Republican Party,” Scott said. “I like winning and frankly the best shot at us keeping that seat is without doubt Lisa Murkowski.” 

Scott said that among the reasons he thinks Murkowski gives Republicans the best chance to hold on to her seat in a key election year is that “the power of incumbency is undeniable.” He added that “she works really hard.”

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The senator’s endorsement puts him at odds with former President Donald Trump in the key Senate race — a move that angered some on the right. 

But Scott is far from the only Republican to be on the opposite side of a Senate race from Trump this cycle. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; former Vice President Mike Pence; Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; and others have endorsed 2022 GOP primary candidates in races where Trump endorsed their competitor. 

Scott on Thursday acknowledged Trump’s continued influence over the GOP, and said Trump’s endorsements overall this cycle have been effective for Republicans.

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“You can tell by the number of races he’s won. I mean, the bottom line is that he still is the most powerful force in Republican politics, and I think all of politics,” Scott said.

“That’s one of the reasons I enjoyed working with him on tax reform and HBCUs and opportunity zones and sickle cell anemia and all the priorities that we set, we were able to see them get accomplished,” he added. “I think his endorsement is a powerful one.”

Alaska will hold a “ranked choice” primary election on Aug. 16, in which the top four candidates, regardless of political affiliation, will advance to the general election. Murkowski and Tshibaka are both likely to move on to the November election.

Last year, the Alaska Republican Party voted 53-17 to censure Murkowski and discouraged her from identifying as a Republican candidate in 2022 after she voted to impeach Trump. 

Tshibaka stepped into the race last year as well, and quickly became the consensus candidate for pro-Trump Republicans upset with Murkowski. But Murkowski is used to challenges from the right, including in 2010 when she lost the GOP nomination to a Tea Party candidate then staged a successful write-in campaign to retain her Senate seat.

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