A couple tidbits from AP state political writer Dave Ammons’ weekly column, that puts the Cantwell-McGavick race in perspective:
–DUELING POLLS. Last week’s report mentioned a Republican poll that showed Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., with just an eight point lead over her likely GOP challenger, Mike McGavick. Big trouble? Now independent pollster Stuart Elway reports Cantwell with a runaway 30-point lead – 55 percent definitely voting for her or inclined to do so, versus 25 percent inclined or definitely voting McGavick’s way. Elway interviewed 405 voters by phone Feb. 6-9; margin of error plus or minus five percentage points.
-BUSH DRAG. Elway said his polls show Cantwell’s popularity gaining over the past five years and that the state is “darker blue” this year. Referring to President Bush’s dismal numbers here, Elway says “Cantwell will try in this campaign to make McGavick’s middle initial `W.'” Thus far, McGavick hasn’t shown voters a compelling reason to dump Cantwell, he says.
A 30-point lead amongst firm voters… and this is before the dirt starts flying against former insurance industry CEO and lobbyist McGavick. (And as one of the state’s leading muckrakers, I promise you, dirt will fly.) Cantwell’s base, as reflected in the Elway Poll, also doesn’t likely include support from many disenchanted members of the left wing of the Democratic Party, who would prefer a more uniformly liberal nominee, but most of whom will eventually cast their votes for Cantwell.
Sen. Cantwell is a proven leader on environmental, energy, and port security issues, and as Elway points out, her popularity continues to grow. Not only is McGavick faced with the daunting task of providing a compelling reason to dump Cantwell, the reason must be so compelling as to convince independents (and even some moderate Republicans) that it’s worth the risk of handing the Bush administration the 60-vote majority needed to shut down all Democratic filibusters… like the one Sen. Cantwell successfully led to block oil drilling in the sensitive Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.