IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Alaska governor accepts the terms of Trump's conditional backing

Donald Trump told Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy he could have an endorsement, but only if he opposed Sen. Lisa Murkowski's bid. The governor accepted the deal.

It was not surprising when Donald Trump endorsed Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy last week. After all, the incumbent governor is a conservative Republican — whom Trump supported four years ago — who's ideologically aligned with the other GOP governors whom the former president is backing. What was surprising was how he endorsed him.

As we discussed, Trump said he supports Dunleavy's bid for a second term, but that support would be "null and void" if the governor supports Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski's re-election bid in his home state.

To be sure, horse trading in campaign endorsements isn't new. But as a rule, these transactions are more direct: I'll endorse you for office x, if you endorse me for office y. I'll back you in this election cycle, if you back me in the next election cycle. And so on.

But Trump presented a sort of electoral bank-shot: Trump wants Dunleavy to win, but only if the governor wants Murkowski to lose. It suggests that the former president is actually indifferent toward Dunleavy's future. What he cares about is the GOP senator whose career he's desperate to end.

Would the governor go along with such a scheme? Evidently, yes. The Anchorage Daily News reported on New Year's Eve:

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has accepted former President Donald Trump's conditional endorsement of his 2022 reelection campaign, according to a message sent from Trump's political action committee.

"Please tell the President thank you for the endorsement," Dunleavy's response read, according to a message from Trump's Save America PAC. "With regard to the other issue, please tell the President he has nothing to worry about. I appreciate all 45 has done for Alaska and this country."

There remains some question as to whether the governor intended for this to be a public statement, or a message Dunleavy wanted to share only with the former president's team. Either way, it became a public statement, and validity of which was confirmed by the Alaskan's office.

Trump celebrated the completed arrangement soon after, praising Dunleavy's "courage" in a written statement, and calling Murkowski the "disaster from Alaska."

Of course, given the circumstances, "courage" isn't the first word that comes to mind. The Republican governor could've told Trump it's none of his business what Dunleavy thinks of his own state's U.S. Senate race. Dunleavy also had the option of backing his own home-state ally from his own party. The governor also could've discouraged the former president from trying to further divide the already divided Alaska GOP.

Indeed, a Republican operative in the state told the Washington Examiner last week, "The Alaska GOP is already fractured in a big way. Trump's conditional endorsement of Dunleavy was just another straw."

But the governor appears to have accepted the terms of the deal anyway, probably fearful of what it would do to his re-election prospects if he had to deal with Trump's wrath.