I just received an email from Sen. Robert Byrd, the longest serving Senator in U.S. history.
Of course, a lot of other folks around here received the same exact email. It was a fundraising pitch on behalf of Sen. Patty Murray, sent from a Murray campaign email account. Nothing remarkable about that.
But from all accounts, the affection and respect for Murray expressed in Byrd’s email is genuine, and provides a sharp contrast to the caricature of Murray with which Washington Republicans like to comfort themselves every six years.
Back in 2004 I described her last reelection contest as a race between the physically diminutive Patty Murray versus the politically diminutive George Nethercutt, who she unsurprisingly defeated by a 12-point margin. So how has Murray consistently produced such wide margins against highly touted Republican opponents?
Quite simply, Murray is one of the best retail politicians I’ve ever met. Spend a few moments with her and it becomes clear that she actually likes people, and unlike Sen. Maria Cantwell (who has different virtues), clearly enjoys talking with complete strangers. Be it one-on-one, in small groups, speaking before a large room, or even in her TV commercials, this everywomanish aspect of Murray’s personality comes through, making it exceedingly difficult for Republicans to succeed with their usual line of negative attacks.
Ironically, this inherent likability makes it easier for Murray to go on the attack herself, as she did early, often and quite effectively against Nethercutt. Don’t let her size and mannerisms fool you; you don’t get to rise to such a high level of power and influence in a men’s club like the U.S. Senate without sporting some awfully big cojones, metaphorical as they may be, and Murray’s not afraid to swing ‘em. Nethercutt entered the 2004 race with a reputation as a giant-killer, but the five foot tall Murray immediately kneecapped him, and he never recovered.
Perhaps this explains why Murray has yet to draw a big name opponent for 2010. After ending the political careers of three sitting Republican Congress-critters in a row, neither Cathy McMorris-Rogers, Dave Reichert nor Doc Hastings are eager to have Murray make them the fourth. And state Attorney General Rob McKenna—without a doubt the most skilled politician on the WSRP bench—is too smart to deliberately seek out a bump in the road on what he hopes to be a smooth ride to the governor’s mansion and beyond. As for Dino Rossi, he just got his ass kicked by an unpopular governor, and besides… you gotta want it to run for it.
That only leaves the traditional GOP fallback candidate: the generic, rich, white guy. And that didn’t turn out so well for Mike McGavick running against a much more vulnerable Cantwell in 2006, now did it?
Right now, with Murray out-raising her best funded no-name Republican opponent by over 227 to 1, and the election only ten months away, it looks like the state GOP has given up on taking out the Democrat they like to laugh off as America’s dumbest senator. Well, um, what does that say about them?