Saturday, September 24, 2005

Cantwell Opens an Early Lead

[[C A M P A I G N S]] * Republicans would dearly like to make some inroads into one of the nation’s most dependably “blue” states, Washington. This is the only state in the Union that currently boasts women Democrats in all three of its top elective spots: governor (Christine Gregoire) and both U.S. senators (Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell). During a recent visit to the state capital, however, GOP national chairman Ken Mehlman kept referring to Washington as “purple”--willing to vote for Republicans, despite its reputation for supporting strong Democrats. (The last time the Evergreen State went for a Republican presidential candidate was in 1984, when Ronald Reagan ran for re-election.) He expressed hope that the GOP could exploit whatever anger is left over from the 2004 gubernatorial election (which was won by Gregoire only after three ballot recounts) to boost the campaign of Republican Mike McGavick, former CEO of Seattle-based Safeco Insurance Company, who is challenging Cantwell for her seat.

But a new poll from Strategic Vision is more likely to raise Mehlman’s blood pressure than his hopes. It shows Cantwell, a former high-tech industry exec finishing up her first Senate term, with a 10-point lead over political novice McGavick. Asked who they would vote for if the election were held today, 49 percent of Washingtonians sided with Cantwell, while only 39 percent went for McGavick. Yes, the fact that Cantwell didn’t quite clear the 50 percent mark might make her appear vulnerable; but since Strategic Vision is a partisan Republican outfit, Daily Kos concludes that she’s “in good shape.”

UPDATE: The Washington Republican Party had hoped to avoid a costly and distracting primary challenge to McGavick, thus allowing him to concentrate on tearing down Cantwell’s rep. But it seems the former Safeco honcho isn’t intimidating enough. The Associated Press reports that Diane Tebelius, a lawyer and longtime GOP activist who lives in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, and who last year ran an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. House, is making noises about competing for the Republican Senate nomination. As she says, “Many believe this is a race only a Republican woman can win.” We shall see.

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