Senate race goes viral

Washington’s hot U.S. Senate race has eclipsed Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District contest as the national race-to-watch.

During the GOP Convention here last weekend, the political blogosphere was alive with news of Dino Rossi‘s evasive answers to Tea Party questions, former NFL player Clint Didier‘s impromptu flight east to meet former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Friday, Didier’s boisterous reception at the convention on Saturday, and a Campaign for Liberty straw poll that gave Didier a resounding thumbs-up.

The story line continued this week, as Didier was summoned to Washington to meet with staff from the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

“NRSC dumps Rossi!” proclaimed the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which would prefer that U.S. Sen. Patty Murray face Didier, a charismatic political newcomer with ultra-conservative views, rather than Rossi, a mainstream Republican who has name familiarity from running two statewide races.

Politico reported that Didier’s campaign consultant alleged the state GOP tried to endorse Rossi from the floor of the convention. But this reporter was there when a motion calling for a straw poll in the U.S. Senate race was soundly rebuffed Saturday on the convention floor.

Meanwhile, Rossi has acquired a new press spokeswoman. Jennifer Morris comes to the Rossi campaign from the office of U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, so it’s not surprising that Rossi’s press comments are starting to sound a lot like those emanating from the Kentucky senator’s office.

On Tuesday evening Rossi’s campaign sent out a statement calling on Murray to oppose “cap and trade” energy legislation — and predicting that President Barack Obama would push for such legislation in his Oval Office speech on the Gulf oil spill.

“The fact that Democrat leaders in Washington are using the tragedy in the Gulf Coast to push a national energy tax endorsed by the very company which caused this disaster strikes me as ill-timed, and little more than political posturing,” Rossi’s statement said.

Said McConnell that same evening: “If early reports are accurate, the President will use his remarks not as an occasion to unite the nation in a common effort to solve the immediate problem, but to make his case for a new national energy tax commonly known as Cap and Trade.”

McConnell has offered to come to Washington to campaign for Rossi. That’s not surprising, considering the stakes.

The Hotline’s latest Senate race rankings pegged the Washington seat as one of the 10 most likely to turn over, though conceding it’s a long shot.

Wrote Amy Walter of the National Journal: “The firewall protecting Democrats from minority status comes down to these three seats: Washington (Patty Murray), California (Barbara Boxer) and Wisconsin (Russell Feingold). To lose control of the Senate, Democrats would have to lose two of these three — and not pick up any GOP-held seats.”

Kathie Durbin

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