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Why it's unwise for Trump to target Alaska's Lisa Murkowski

Donald Trump's bold new idea: accuse a moderate Senate Republican of national betrayal.
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski

At a White House event yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump acknowledged that his party had cleared a procedural hurdle as part of its health care crusade. The president's Republican Party, however, was not unified in the endeavor.

"So we had two Republicans that went against us, which is very sad, I think," Trump said. "It's very, very sad -- for them."

This morning, the president kept it going, this time singling out Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R) of Alaska with an angry tweet:

"Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!"

First, the idea that Murkwoski let down the entire country by standing up for health care benefits is plainly bonkers.

Second, it's not at all clear why Trump is singling out the Alaska Republican for a very public rebuke. Murkowski wasn't the only GOP senator to vote against the procedural measure yesterday afternoon, and she was one of nine GOP senators to break ranks on a "repeal and replace" measure last night.

But even putting that aside, Trump's tweet was strategically unwise if he's serious about reaching his own goals.

In a narrowly divided Senate, Republican leaders have no real margin for error if they're going to pass a regressive health care bill. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) already appears to oppose her party's entire initiative and wants to start anew with a less ridiculous approach. Other GOP skeptics abound.

It's against this backdrop that Donald Trump effectively said, "I know what to do! While the process is still ongoing, I'll accuse Lisa Murkowski of a partisan and national betrayal!"

This will almost certainly push the Alaskan even further away, which is the opposite of what GOP leaders wanted to see. Trump could be reaching out to Murkowski right now, trying to negotiate with her, or perhaps even selling her on the merits of his ideas. But he doesn't know how to do any of that, so he's trying Twitter abuse instead.

Postscript: Sen. John McCain told Murkowski yesterday she did "the right thing."