It’s disturbing to admit it, but on at least one subject, GOP state Sen. Don Benton and I think alike:
Washington state Sen. Don Benton says he doesn’t expect Republican Dino Rossi to enter the race for U.S. Senate this year, citing his personal friendship with the two-time gubernatorial candidate.
Benton, who has already entered the race against Sen. Patty Murray on the Republican side, told POLITICO Monday: “Dino’s a good friend of mine. I’ve talked to him many times. I don’t believe Dino would allow me to sacrifice my family time and my business if he was going to run for U.S. Senate. “
“If he had serious plans, I really believe he would have told me that,” Benton said. “I just don’t see it.”
Yeah, I know, the conventional wisdom is that Rossi wouldn’t be going through all this public preening if he weren’t at least seriously considering a run for the U.S. Senate, but like Benton, I just don’t see it, and for many of the same reasons:
“He doesn’t have any money in the bank, he doesn’t have any money raised. He doesn’t have the foundation. The talent pool is pretty much committed for this election cycle. It’s too late for him to become a viable candidate in this race…”
Of course, with only $130,000 dollars in the bank, little statewide name ID, and almost zero support from his own party’s establishment, it’s pretty much “too late” for Benton to become a viable candidate as well, but that shouldn’t detract from his appraisal of Rossi’s own bleak senatorial prospects. Sen. Patty Murray would be a difficult target even in a red wave election, and while there’s no reason to suspect this won’t be a painful midterm for congressional Democrats, the generic polling just doesn’t show a tsunami on the horizon.
Yes, Rossi’s fundraising prowess and name ID could at least make this contest a race, hence the NRSC’s aggressive recruitment, but barring a double-dip recession or some other dramatic shift in the political climate, he’d still be little more than a sacrificial lamb. The NRSC is looking for a candidate who can draw Democratic money, energy and focus into Washington state and out of contests where Republicans have a better shot at making gains — the 50-state strategy, and all that — and Rossi would play that role well. But it’s not at all clear that Rossi is selfless enough to sacrifice his own political career for the greater good of his beloved Prefers GOP Party.
“I said, ‘Hey Dino, you know as long as you’re in limbo, it does make it a little more difficult for those of us out here doing this,’” Benton recalled. “He said, ‘I’m sorry for that, but I’m on nobody’s timetable but my own.’”
Not exactly the sentiment of a guy willing to take one for the team. And as for the “timetable” Rossi’s on, I’m still guessing it’s for an express bus to the 2012 gubernatorial campaign.
That would explain Rossi’s months-long political striptease, for while the clock’s quickly running out on a serious 2010 challenge, all this hemming and hawing only serves to keep Rossi’s name in the news and in front of voters in advance of one last shot at the governor’s mansion. And it would also account for Attorney General Rob McKenna’s inexplicable public lurch to the right, for how else to explain McKenna willfully ripping that carefully crafted mask of moderation from his face, if not to position himself for gubernatorial primary battle against Rossi?
Rossi ran for governor for nearly five years straight, and now he’s contemplating an impulse run for U.S. Senate? I don’t think so. He’s raised no money, he’s hired no consultants and he’s assembled no staff. In fact, his usual cast of staffers and advisors are already committed to other candidates and races. So a last minute run at Murray would just strike me as somewhat out of character.
And foolhardy. Murray is no pushover, and she not only enjoys enthusiastic support from our state’s Democratic majority, her well-earned reputation for both bringing home the bacon and defending our state’s economic interests has endeared her to business interests who more typically find themselves in the Republican camp. Hell… I even think Murray stands a good shot at winning the Seattle Times endorsement… even in a head to head with Rossi.
So yeah, I’m with Benton on this one. I just don’t see it.