Elway: “Rossi’s challenge may be greater than it appears”


I just got my hands on the latest Elway Poll, and I gotta say, it has me feeling pretty damn smart. While the headlines generated by the top-line numbers don’t look so great for Sen. Patty Murray — Publicola, for example, reported that “Rossi Gains Ground on Murray in New Poll” — the details are much more copacetic.

Yeah sure, Murray’s lead has shrunk from 51-34 to 47-40 since Dino Rossi officially entered the race, and I’m sure she’s not happy to find herself under 50 percent regardless of the opponent. But if anybody should be discouraged by these results, it’s Rossi and his Republican supporters.

Although Murray is below 50%, this survey suggests that in order to win, Rossi would have to convince 85% of the undecided voters to vote for him. This would be a stretch, even though challengers typically receive a disproportionate share of the undecided voters. The assumption is that voters are familiar with the incumbent. If they were going to vote for the incumbent, they would know it already.

The problem for Rossi, as I’ve previously suggested, is that having already run high profile campaigns in 2004 and 2008, voters are already familiar with him too. In fact, as a candidate, voters are probably more familiar with Rossi than with Murray, thanks to the $20 million-plus spent on his behalf just two years ago. Elway confirms my intuition:

Because Rossi has run in 2 of the last 3 statewide elections, however, most voters will have formed an opinion about him prior to this campaign. He was recruited as the strongest candidate to face Murray based on his runs for Governor. Ironically, he may not benefit as much from being the non-incumbent as would be the case had he not run these races.

Six years of almost continuous campaigning, and yet here Rossi sits, in the wake of his post-announcement bounce, at a mere 40 percent.

This reminds me of the 2006 contest between Sen. Maria Cantwell and Mike McGavick. It was around this time in the campaign when the polling numbers narrowed, and pundits started talking about how this would be a close race. The problem for McGavick was that the only numbers that were moving were Cantwell’s, while he never managed to climb above the low 40’s. McGavick’s path toward fifty plus one was never very clear, and he ultimately never found one.

Rossi’s path is equally unsure, if for different reasons, and made all the more so by the fact that he polls best with those respondents least likely to vote.

As Elway explains, Murray leads Rossi 56-33 with “perfect voters” (those who have voted in all 4 of the previous primary and general elections) and 52-37 among “likely voters” (those who are 3 for 4), while Rossi leads 47-39 among “marginal voters”… those who have voted in 2 or fewer of the past 4 elections. This appears to create a bizarro world kinda scenario, where Republican victory might hinge on increasing voter turnout.

The other challenge facing Rossi is that according to Elway, more Washington voters would vote against a Tea Party candidate than for one, by a 5-to-3 margin. Once again echoing my earlier analysis, Elway observes that the Tea Party represents a bigger problem for Rossi than it does for Murray:

Tea Partiers are never going to vote for Murray anyway. Rossi will need Tea Party voters in November, but if he is too closely identified with them, he risks driving away more voters than he will attract.

Rock, meet hard place.


  1. 1

    Michael spews:

    “Rossi’s challenge may be greater than it appears”

    LOL… Rossi doesn’t have a hope in hell.

  2. 2

    rhp6033 spews:

    Absent a major scandal, Murray seems to be well on her way to re-election. I’m guessing that the forces behind Rossi’s campaign are working hard right now, trying to find anything they can to besmirth the Senator. Expect a gaggle of “college students” at each public appearance, poking a camera in her face and asking misleading questions trying to provoke a reaction from her. I can’t imagine anything else, unless they just make it up at the last minute – which certainly wouldn’t be beyond the pale for Republican campaign tactics over the past fifteen years or more.

  3. 3

    joel connelly spews:

    Judging from its lead with multiple first-person references, the thrust of the Elway Poll results would appear not to be about Murray or Rossi, but Goldy.

  4. 5

    Zotz spews:

    Haven’t seen too much on which R will win with R primary voters. The numbers to watch are the relative strengths of Rs to R primary voters.

    Looked at another way from that stated in the poll write up, increased turnout by the “marginals” in the primary would seem to correlate with a stronger Didler primary outcome.

    Unless Didler and/or the Teahadists and/or Mooselini Also pull out and line up behing Rossi, Rossi will struggle to be in the top 2.

    Since that’s unlikely, top 2 or not, I predict Rossi will be brutalized and damaged (even more than he already is) — hence fucked.

    Pass the Popcorn!

  5. 9

    Zotz spews:


    He acts like a virgin but alas, it’s not his 1st time, Michael.

    His Corpulence stops by here periodically for a driveby pshaw! and a stern finger wagging at the kids.

    Of course it could be someone other than joel since Goldy doesn’t really control who apparently posts in the comments. You kind of have to take that on faith and past history. I’m assuming it is “joel” because Goldy responded to “joel” and he should know.

  6. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Looks like Murray has 46% – 47% locked up, which means a Republican candidate, to unseat her, would need to win nearly all the undecided vote. Ain’t gonna happen.

  7. 12

    lostinaseaofblue spews:


    “Republicans Vote Against Economy”

    Or for responsible spending of other peoples money. Oh yeah, Democrats don’t believe in that. Sorry, forgot.

  8. 13

    Steve spews:

    “for responsible spending of other peoples money”

    Not much evidence of that to be seen looking at the deficits and wanton spending under Republican administrations and congresses over the last 30 years. Why should any voter believe that these Republicans, consisting mostly of the same old Republicans, will be any different? We’ve all heard that pitch before but we’ve never seen them follow through on it. Why would you believe them now? I’d think that with their record going back decades, they’d have finally earned a reputation with you as lying, reckless spenders of other people’s money.

  9. 14


    Well, Joel, when somebody makes claims, then independant information indicates the claims were true, then I don’t see a problem with pointing that out.

    I think you are being petty, but that is not a surprise anymore.

  10. 15

    Richard Pope spews:

    Elway’s poll results always seem to overstate Democratic v. Republican strength. Stu Elway is actually a REPUBLICAN, which makes this ironic. Of course, most Republican rabble rousers call Elway a Democrat …

    Anyway, Senate race does look competitive, based on all of the polls. Should be exciting.

  11. 16

    YellowPup spews:

    @3-4: This recurring comments feature, in which Joel attacks Goldy for stylistic infelicities and lack of journalistic decorum, would make a great panel discussion, or cage match, on the New Journalism.

  12. 17

    don spews:

    Even funnier is that Didier was in Washington this week looking for Republican support. Has Rossi done this yet? You would think that if someone wanted to get into that exclusive club, they would take the time to introduce themselves.