Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on the verge of achieving an historic win as a write-in candidate in Alaska, was received like a returning war hero by her colleagues as she strode about the Senate chamber Monday, with hugs and back slaps and handshakes galore, including from members of her own conference who had thrown their full-throated support behind her opponent, GOP primary winner Joe Miller.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex, chairman of the Republicans' campaign committee, stretched out his hand to the senator and offered his "congratulations," according to Murkowski.
"What I tell everybody is, 'It's not over yet. There are still votes to be counted.' I haven't had a sip of champagne yet," Murkowski laughed, telling reporters that she expects to know the outcome of the recount on Wednesday and will return to her home state Thursday when the Senate completes its business.
A cheerful Murkowski said she also fully expects to retain her position atop the Energy Committee. "I don't lose anything. I didn't switch my party affiliation - still a Republican, still a member of the caucus, still have that seniority that I have accrued. And I am the most senior member, so I will be the ranking member."
The panel must ratify the decision about Murkowski when the Senate reconvenes for a new session in January, but sources told Fox Monday that committee approval is all but certain. "If the conference did not strip her when she was running against a Republican, are they really going to strip her now?" one GOP aide asked rhetorically.
"I did something that nobody has done. They don't quite know what to do with me," Murkowski said.
Asked whether or not it was difficult to be around some of her colleagues who worked hard to unseat her, Murkowski paused for a very long moment, furrowed her brow, and said, "No. The people who were working hard to unseat me were the Miller camp and some of the people with the Tea Party Express. I don't know who they are, but they were sure working hard...but there's nothing better than being ahead."