Patty Murray, the popular state legislator who ran as the "Mom in Tennis Shoes" 18 years ago won after a considerable battle proved her to be a heavy weight. She also had the anti Bush 41 movement and the help of a young southerner running for President who won the affection of women across the country - William Jefferson Clinton. Over the years, Murray has proven to be one of the most liberal senators in the nation, and has increasingly become reclusive and out of touch with the voters in Washington State. Murray has won election to her seat three times before, but mostly to individuals with little to no name recognition, and those who have never been involved in a statewide election.
Dino Rossi, a two time runner up for Governor, has wide statewide support and, even as a moderate Republican, is carrying the support of most die-hard conservative Tea Partiers. Dino's name in this race was only suspect, as a group of unknown candidates were scrambling to find their niche in facing Murray. This analysis begins in the early phase of the candidacy, prior to Rossi officially entering the race. Se the chart below:
Early polling placed Rossi within the margin of error of Murray. Anticipation of his entering the race gathered support from Independents who had grown tired of Murray and the D.C. shenanigans. Rossi pulled ahead of Murray in early polling, to the upper limits of the margin of error, placing him as a solid contender to Murray. Rossi announced his candidacy and immediately fell under the sword of Tea Party candidates tearing at a moderate in a wave of conservative movements. Murray's numbers rose as a result of an effective attack on Rossi by Tea Party challenger, Clint Didier. As the somewhat extreme (and sometimes rambling) Didier began to gain momentum, Murray's numbers returned to her near victory margin of 50%.
The state voted in the Primary Election. The top two candidates were Murray and Rossi. This immediately propelled Rossi's numbers in the polls while Murray suffered the fate of being faced off with a serious and viable contender - a Republican who could win in Washington State. Murray's campaign was in a virtual nose dive, even flying Barack Obama out to the state to endorse her, which sunk her numbers even more.
Murray then turned to serious campaign mode, opening her massive lobbyist funded war chest and unleashing a series of attack ads against Rossi. Rossi remained silent, fundraising and hitting the grassroots. As he waited in the wings for his coffers to fill, it looked as if Murray was going to run away with this thing. The people in Washington state began to wonder if Rossi was going to fizzle out under the enormous pocket-book of a Murray campaign.
Alas, Rossi appeared on the air. Rossi challenged debates. Rossi was in the news, on the TV, on the airwaves. To make matters worse, a usually Murray friendly Seattle Times took a neutral stance in this election and began running actual news about the validity of political advertising. With every new ad, the Times would run an assessment of the ad. Murray was found guilty by the media of slinging mud and half truths. Rossi was shown to be more truthful and delivered a more uplifting message. This tactic spoke well with the Independent voters.
The poll numbers show response to the events of the campaigns so far, but the October surprise has been that some polls have been heavily favoring Democrat voters over Republicans. Even with the disparity, Independent voters are swinging toward the Republican challenger, upwards of ten percent in many polls. In Washington State it is the Independent voters that can break the stranglehold of Liberalism held by densely populated King County's Seattle Metro area.
On average, both candidates are at a dead tie 47 percent (Murray 47.455%, Rossi 47.364%). For statistical purposes, throwing out the highest and lowest poll numbers for each, Rossi takes the advantage 47.4 to 47.3. As I said, a dead tie. This race is about getting out the vote. So let's look at what is on the ballot that is going to get folks to return their statewide mail-in ballot.
*note: poll numbers are all from Rassmusen.
The Rossi/Murray race is the top of the ticket. It gets a fair amount of press, and obviously the Republicans have the GOTV momentum, drawing support from Independent voters. what is drawing more attention is a series of tax increases that are being challenged on the ballot. In WA State the legislature is proposing food taxes, state income taxes, constitutional amendments to extend the state debt allowance, etc. It is a fiscal disaster on the ballots this year, and it is drawing massive attention to the economic woes, and the party of incumbents. There are no pressing social issues on the ballot, so alternative lifestyle voters have no rally poll. There are no major issues other than economic battles - higher taxes or starve the uneducated school children. This is the nail in the coffin for Murray. She has to carry the ticket, and carry the platform in a state where she has proven to be less than popular after two decades in office.
Key factors to a Rossi Victory:
1. King County Liberal Turnout - King County swings upwards of 85% Democrat. It is a solid assurance for the Dems, and also is the most populous area in the state. State elections are won and lost in King County, because of King County.
2. Independent voters - IV are now swinging 10% points in favor of Rossi. Statewide that is effective, but a large swing in the urban areas is turning this thing into a Rossi victory. If he stays on message, Murray cannot counter.
3. Murray blew her advertising load too early - Rossi is well known. We all know his dirty laundry. Her early attack ads swung polls in her favor, but it was nothing more than a reminder of that which we all already knew. It gave her a temporary bump, and there is nothing left - no foreseeable 'October Surprise'. Rossi has been well vetted since 2004 in this state. Two runs for Governor has a way of cleaning out your political closet!
This race may not be key for conservatives, but this race IS key for the GOP to take a majority in the US Senate. The WA and NV senate races are going to be the most hard fought races in the history of this union...two races in which neither party can afford to lose.