Sen. Lisa Murkowski had just endured a humbling defeat in the GOP primary that had seemingly ended her political career when a waiter at an Anchorage restaurant came up to her with a message.
"I said, "Please do this. Don't leave us in this situation,'" Patrick Blomquist said, taking his chances by violating restaurant policy that he says forbids staff from talking politics with customers. "I was a little nervous because basically my job was on the line. But my state was (also) on the line."
Murkowski was so touched by the encounter and others like it as she contemplated a writein candidacy that she jumped back in the race with a reinvigorated sense, culminating with her victory Wednesday - what she called "our miracle" - following a week-long vote count.
"I promised during this campaign that I would do everything, everything that I could do to best represent you," Murkowski told supporters Wednesday night, her voice shaking at times. She added later: "I pledge to you today and from this day forward that I will do everything that I can to keep that commitment to you all."
Murkowski is the first U.S. Senate candidate since 1954 to win a write-in campaign, a feat made possible by her widespread name recognition, savvy marketing, help from a wellfinanced PAC formed by Alaska Native corporations, and the missteps of opponent Joe Miller.
In mounting the outsider run, Murkowski displayed an energy she lacked during the primary, when she let attacks on her record go unchecked and paid little attention to the Sarah Palin-backed Miller, who was making his first run for statewide office. She said she was offering Alaskans a choice between the "extremist" views of Miller and the "inexperience" of Democrat Scott McAdams, a small-town mayor.
The normally cerebral Murkowski declared the gloves off. She said she was in the race to win it, asked Alaskans to stand with her, and she taunted Palin and a Republican establishment that saw her as going on a fool's errand.
"Well, perhaps it's time they met one Republican woman who won't quit on Alaska," she said to cheers in September, a not-so-subtle dig on Palin's decision to step down early as Alaska governor.