Rossi poised for run against Murray for Senate


by KING 5 News and Staff

Posted on May 24, 2010 at 12:13 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 25 at 8:56 AM

If the election were held today, who would you vote for?

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Republican official says Dino Rossi plans to enter the Washington state race against Democratic Sen. Patty Murray on Wednesday, and a new University of Washington poll finds Murray has her work cut out for her.

A Republican official said Monday that Rossi is hiring staff and is preparing to make his widely anticipated campaign official on Wednesday. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private campaign plans.

"I've never been more concerned for our state, our country, for the future for my children," Rossi said in a speech last Friday. "That's why this could be a very good year for change. A change in the proper direction."

Rossi has been a close runner-up to Christine Gregoire in the last two gubernatorial elections.

The Seattle Times reports Pat Shortridge will be Rossi's campaign manager. He's a former aid to House Majority Leader Dick Armey. Tom Goff, who reportedly worked on Mike McGavick's unsuccessful campaign against Maria Cantwell four years ago, may be deputy campaign manager. Mary Lane Strow, who served as Rossi's spokesperson during his first gubernatorial run, will be a part-time communications consultant.

Republicans had been courting Rossi and national Democrats have been criticizing him in hopes of keeping him out of the Senate race or rough him up by the time he's officially in.

But Rossi has been in no rush to start campaigning ahead of the Aug. 17 primary. Complicating the GOP effort has been Sarah Palin's endorsement of another GOP candidate, former football player Clint Didier.

The UW poll released Monday finds Murray and Rossi are in a statistical tie among registered voters in Washington state. With a margin of error of just under four percent, 44 percent of voters say they plan to vote for Murray or are leaning toward her. Forty percent say they are in the Rossi camp. Three percent say they will vote for someone else and 12 percent are undecided.

A closer look at the responses find:

  • Certain to vote for Murray: 36 percent
  • Certain to vote for Rossi: 28 percent
  • Voting for Murray, but could change: 7 percent
  • Voting for Rossi, but could change: 7 percent
  • Undecided, but leaning toward Murray: 1 percent
  • Undecided, but leaning toward Rossi: 5 percent

A recent KING 5 News poll conducted by SurveyUSA found that 52 percent of likely voters in Washington said they would vote for Rossi and 42 percent said they would vote for Murray. However, Rossi told KING 5 that internal and public polling showed Murray with the advantage.

The UW poll also found voters were statistically split when asked if they plan to vote Democrat or Republican in the Washington state legislature. Thirty-nine percent said Democrat while 38 percent said Republican. Nineteen percent were undecided. The margin of error was +/- 3.9 percent.

It's shaping up to be a very, very tight race for Patty Murray," said UW political science professor Matt Barreto. "And in the matchups, when you look at her potential match ups against either Dino Rossi or just any generic Republican, it's a dead heat. She's only got either a three or four point lead."

Barreto believes it's indicative of voter frustration with Democrats across the country.

"That really spells that voters are looking at every incumbent of every political party and sort of asking hard questions. I think Patty Murray is going to be part of that sentiment," said Barretto.

Voters told UW pollsters that jobs, the economy and health care reform are the most important issues of the 2010 election.

The race could be expensive, no matter Murray's challenger.

"It will take millions of dollars," admits Washington State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser. "We will have to have enough money to get the message out to tell the story of all the earmarks and tax increases (Murray) has been a part of."

Democratic consultant Cathy Allen suggests the race could be "more expensive" than the Maria Cantwell-Mike McGavick race of 2006.  The candidates spent $27 million dollars combined.

Allen believes Murray is ready to take on Dino, or whoever her Republican opponent may be.

"Patty Murray has 6 million in the bank, she has a record," says Allen,  "she's got a workhorse reputation, and Dino is more of a showhorse."

To see the complete UW poll, click here.

KING 5's Mimi Jung and Chris Daniels, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.