The biggest political news in the state recently was Dino Rossi’s confirmation that he will run for the United States Senate against Democratic incumbent Patty Murray.
Rossi has been under significant pressure for several months by insiders, both here and in the nation’s capital. Republican leaders in both Washingtons desperately need Rossi at the top of the ballot. In order for Republicans to have a chance at regaining the state Legislature in two years, they must capture several Democratic seats this year.
Without Rossi, there could be a drop-off in Republican voters, as none of the other candidates has even broken double figures in name recognition. Rossi gives them a recognized leader at the top of the ballot and ensures Republicans will go to the polls.
Patty Murray has her incumbent advantage – and $6 million in her campaign war chest. But a recent poll showed Rossi had a chance at winning, trailing Murray but only by 4 percent.
For Rossi, this is a big gamble. If he loses, he is pretty much done in politics. His strategy may also be a gamble. He has purposely waited until the last minute for several reasons. First, he wanted to make sure he would get the financial support he would need, while also keeping an eye on the polls to ensure he remained competitive. Second, he wanted to condense the campaign into a shorter timeframe to minimize the available time for Murray to attack him. This also allows Rossi to focus his attack on Murray where he apparently thinks she is most vulnerable in the public’s eyes.
Years ago, we had the gold dust twins, Democratic Senators Warren Magnuson and Henry “Scoop” Jackson, who year after year brought projects and jobs to this state through earmarks. Other states called it pork. Then we had the Speaker of the House Tom Foley from Spokane. Magnuson and Foley were defeated while at the pinnacle of their power.
With the U.S. Senate so seniority based, it has taken Murray a while to get into the position where she can bring home the bacon. But now she can, and that is exactly what Rossi will try and use against her. He has already stated he is against “earmarks,” which is exactly what “pork” is, and his goal is to change the system and balance the budget.
It is a bold move by Rossi to argue for fiscal restraint and against the incumbent’s ability to bring home benefits.
Rossi is betting the public mood is sufficiently anti-incumbent and angry enough that he can pull it off. Can he? What do you want from your United States senator? Watch the television ads and mailers for this strategy and enjoy the political theater.