PHOTO: 10/8/08 Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray with Gov. Christine Gregoire and then Sen. Joe Biden.
A major behind the scenes recruitment effort by national Republicans will end in success tomorrow. After months of effort and survey research, former State Senator Dino Rossi has been convinced to enter the crowded GOP primary for the nomination to oppose the re-election of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). Rossi believes it is crucial to deny Murray a fourth term because:
I have never been more concerned for the state, for my country, for the future, for my children. . . This could be the 50th or 51st vote (in the Senate). This could be the control. That’s how important this really is. You have to make bold decisions when you are in trouble. . . We can’t win by simply being against everything the Democrats are doing. The current polls are favorable but is it because voters now love Republicans? I don’t think so. I do think this year gives us another chance to prove what we stand for.” Rossi also said the nation is at “crossroads” in which it can “restore free enterprise ideals that made this country great, or we become France, or even Greece.
The polling data has Rossi running almost even with Murray and his name identification and approval rating is far stronger than the 11 other Republicans who are seeking the nomination. National Republicans previously failed in their efforts to recruit several top tier candidates in other U.S. Senate races. Among the Republicans who finally turned down the party leaders are former Governors Tommy Thompson (R-WI) and George Pataki (R-NY) as well as Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) and former Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR).
Rossi was defeated in the 2004 gubernatorial race by just 133 votes. It was the closest gubernatorial election in U.S. history. One factor that robbed Rossi of victory was a Libertarian candidate who received 2% of the vote. Rossi was also defeated in a 2008 re-match with Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) by a 53 to 47% margin, but that was a terrible GOP year.
Chris Widener pulled out of the GOP Senate primary last month and now says:
The clearest and most likely path to victory is to have Dino Rossi as our candidate. The polls show it. The money will show it if he jumps in, as will the final tally of votes. If people are really committed to winning, he would be our best shot. That’s just a fact. Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply naïve, arrogant, or a little bit of both.
Without Rossi, the GOP nomination would probably have gone to former NFL tight end Clint Didier, who has been endorsed by Sarah Palin. Widener predicts Didier would lose a general election to Senator Murray by a 70% to 30% margin.
Murray was first elected to the Senate in 1992 which the news media called the “Year of the Woman”. There were only two female members of the Senate when the year began but four were elected in November. She challenged incumbent Democrat Brock Adams in the primary after allegations were made that he had sexually assaulted a number of women. Some of the key factors in the 2010 race are:
- Senator Murray was easily re-elected in 2004 by a 12%. Gore won the state in 2000 by 50% to 45%, Kerry defeated Bush by 53% to 46% in 2004, and Obama received a landslide 58% in 2008. Now public opinion has shift considerably against the Democrats.
- Voters are angry because Washington state is in a close race with California on budget deficits. Local businesses are complaining about severe regulations and several large corporations have moved out of state. Many of the things Rossi predicted in 2004 have come true. Taxes have been increased along with the number of government employees. Unlike previous years, the state is unable to balance its budget. A majority of voters say Washington state is “seriously on the wrong track.”
- In 1992, Murray was the Democratic Whip in the State Senate but portrayed herself in the campaign as a moderate “mom in tennis shoes” who was concerned about economic growth. Today Murray holds the number four leadership position among Senate Democrats and has raised over $10 million for her re-election. She has defeated three sitting GOP Congressmen, Rod Chandler (1992), Linda Smith (1998) and George Nethercutt (2004). 2010 is far different from the previous contests because now 61 percent of independent voters say they disapprove of Murray’s job performance. Her falling approval ratings, and the fact that she fails to break 50 percent against any Republican confirms her vulnerability.
- Murray can no longer hide from the Democratic leadership. As Salon magazine notes, “If Murray does win re-election — and if, as many still expect, Harry Reid does lose his race in Nevada — she’s likely to run for Whip, the No. 2 leadership post on the Democratic side. (Current Whip Dick Durbin would give up the slot to run for Leader, presumably against Chuck Schumer.) Ironically, Murray’s most likely opponent for Whip, Bob Menendez, now runs the DSCC — which would be charged with helping to protect Murray in a race against Rossi.”
- Despite 18 years on Capitol Hill, Murray is not a polished speaker and her debate skills are poor. In a survey of staffers Murray was named “The Dumbest Senator,” and has often had to retract statements. Years ago she pledged to make the state a “nuclear free zone” but then had to backtrack when she was told how important nuclear power was to Washington.
- One of Murray’s most controversial statement came when she appeared to be praising Osama bin Laden for as a humanitarian who was building day care centers. The Senator was speaking of bin Laden when she said “He’s been out in these countries for decades building roads, building schools, building day-care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. . . . We have not done that. We haven’t been out in many of these countries helping them build infrastructure.” Her claims about bin Laden were wrong, and many observers felt she was confusing Hezbollah in Lebanon with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
- It will be difficult for Murray to protray herself as moderate this year based on her ratings alone: National Taxpayers Union gives her an “F.”
Americans for Tax Reform 0 percent
Freedom Works 0 percent
National Association of Manufacturers 31 percent
American Conservative Union 0 percent
Citizens Against Government Waste 0 percent
AFL-CIO 100 percent
Americans for Democratic Action 95 percent