I don’t know that the Dems have been trying to scare Dino Rossi out of a U.S. Senate bid, but it is increasingly looking like Rob McKenna may have successfully scared Rossi into it. That’s my take, at least.
About a month or so ago when I started lasering back in on Rossi, I was pretty much alone in my conclusion that Rossi was just toying with the NRSC’s attentions. Most of the Dems I spoke with at the state and national level seemed pretty convinced that Rossi was gonna jump into the race, hence, I assumed, the recent aerial bombardment.
But I looked at the stark reality of such a late bid against such a formidable incumbent, at Rossi’s own indisputable gubernatorial ambitions, and McKenna’s out-of-character political misstep in joining the AG lawsuit against health care reform, and concluded that Rossi was both more focused on the governor’s mansion, and too smart to sacrifice those dreams for the sake of John Cornyn’s honor.
Oddly, it’s increasingly looking like I may have been wrong, even as Rossi’s slim chances of victory diminish with each day he drags out this process.
So if Rossi does challenge Sen. Patty Murray, here’s how I think it will have played out. Rossi was planning a 2012 gubernatorial bid, and had been none too subtle in dropping hints of his intentions to friends and political associates. This prompted McKenna to make a calculated, preemptive embrace of the teabagger wing of the party, thus solidifying his position in advance of a primary challenge. At the same time, the NRSC, no doubt with the encouragement of the WSRP under McKenna-flacky Luke Esser, redoubled its overtures to Rossi, offering an enticing outlet for his narcissism. (And to be fair, all politicians are narcissists.)
Rossi, in the face of McKenna muscle and NRSC flattery, now looks like he’s leaning toward a senate run.
Would the DSCC and the state Dems like to scare Rossi out of running? Sure. Why wouldn’t they want a cakewalk for Murray? But I haven’t spoken to a single person in the know who agreed with my earlier assessment, so it seems pretty damn clear that they’re just taking advantage of Rossi’s prolonged indecision process to soften him up in advance of an all out assault.
As for me, I’m not one to hide my motivations. I don’t want Rossi to run for the Senate, not because I fear for Murray (though a Rossi challenge certainly wouldn’t be a cakewalk), but because I desperately want him to run for governor. Quite frankly, Rossi would give McKenna fits, costing him millions of dollars and much of his faux-moderate image in a primary battle. And should Rossi make it to November — a not surprising scenario — I believe he’d offer an easier matchup against the inevitable Democratic nominee, Jay Inslee.
So this is one situation, in my absolutely honest opinion, in which my interests and Rossi’s self-interest are one and the same, for I genuinely believe that a Rossi senate bid would be political suicide. Good for the Party, as they need a sacrificial lamb to tie up Murray’s resources, but the likely end of Rossi’s star-crossed political career. I mean, how many statewide races is he going to lose before his backers stop shoveling money down that hole? McKenna on the other hand, he’s a winner, and we all know that given a clear choice, the Republican powers that be are going to coalesce around the candidate they believe gives them the best chance of winning the governor’s mansion in 2012, whatever promises are being made to Rossi now.
Sure, he’d make it a much tougher race for Murray than any of the political nobodies she currently faces, and he’d end up forcing Dems to spend money in Washington that is needed elsewhere. But the only real political strengths Rossi has are name ID and favorable opinion polls… and, well, those haven’t worked out too well for him in the past against a much less daunting and much less popular Democratic opponent.
So Dino, take it for what it’s worth, by my free advice to you is that you have a much better chance of being governor than you do of being a senator. But either way, I’m counting on you to provide me with plenty of blog fodder.