Despite her defeat in the August primary and plans to run as a write-in candidate, Senate Republicans Wednesday did not remove Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) as the ranking Republican of the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The Senate Republicans voted to keep things as they were with only a few days remaining in the congressional session, said a knowledgeable Capitol Hill aide. “We just wanted to keep the status quo. We all decided that it’s a better thing to do,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said in Politico.

But Murkowski spokesman Michael Brumas saw the vote by the Republican Conference as a “show of support” for the senator. Murkowski was not on Capitol Hill during the vote. She is expected to remain in Alaska until the November elections.

In a prepared statement, Murkowski said, “I look forward to continuing to serve as the ranking Republican of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.”

Last Friday Murkowski announced that she will be an independent write-in candidate in November for the Senate seat that she now holds (see Daily GPI, Sept. 21). The Republican leadership has been far from pleased with her decision, and has thrown its support behind Joe Miller, the lawyer and former judge who beat out Murkowski in the Aug. 24 primary race (see Daily GPI, Aug. 27).

Miller was endorsed by 2008 vice presidential contender, former Alaska governor and Tea Party star Sarah Palin, who has been in a bitter rivalry with the Murkowski family for years.

While write-in candidates normally don’t have much of a chance of winning, Murkowski may have better odds. The fact that she is the incumbent and has a large campaign war chest and name recognition should work in her favor. And it’s believed that more of her supporters — who didn’t show up on Aug. 24 because they felt she already had the election sewed up — will be there in November.

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